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    Clippers’ fearless Bones Hyland could be an X-factor against Suns
    • April 14, 2023

    PLAYA VISTA — Bones Hyland is a second-year guard with a postseason of experience on his short resume. He played 17 minutes per game during last season’s playoff run with the Denver Nuggets, giving him more than a glimpse of what to expect when his new team, the Clippers, faces the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

    “It’s a different level of intensity. It’s do or die,” said Hyland, who joined the Clippers two months ago in a trade with the Nuggets. “You go out there, you lay it all out on the floor and it’s either people are made for it or people are not.

    “That’s where the stars shine bright, and the stars come out.”

    Hyland could provide more than a few bright moments in the best-of-seven series that begins Sunday night in Phoenix based on his recent play. In his past nine games, he averaged 12.8 points and 4.3 assists off the bench to help the Clippers (44-38) win six of their final nine regular-season games.

    Although young, Hyland plays – and speaks – with the confidence of a veteran. The 22-year-old guard said he approaches every game with the same intensity and preparation as a postseason contest. “Give it your all,” he said.

    “I feel like you shouldn’t have to try to overthink things or anything. Just go out there and trust your game plan, trust your work and everything else will take care of itself.”

    Coach Tyronn Lue said Hyland’s confidence will help him throughout his career. He called him fearless in any situation and pointed out his two 3-pointers after the Lakers made a significant run late in the game last week that helped the Clippers get back on track offensively.

    The Clippers managed to finish off the Lakers for their 12th consecutive victory against their hallway rivals.

    “I mean he’s not scared and that’s the first step in being a good player is just not being scared, not being afraid of the moment,” Lue said of Hyland. “He’s not afraid of the moment. He’s not afraid of the big shots.”

    Lue said he wants Hyland to “just be who he is” in the postseason, such as his understanding of coverages, his pace and his ability to get to the basket. But if he tries to do too much, “I’ll let him know.”

    “Sometimes he’s just not strong enough at times, but he understands what he’s supposed to do, and he does it,” Lue said.

    The Clippers, who will not have All-Star wing Paul George for the first round, have other players who could factor into a successful playoff campaign besides Hyland. Call them X-factors.

    On any given night, that void could be filled by Eric Gordon, Norman Powell or Russell Westbrook. Westbrook could be extra motivated in facing his former teammate, Kevin Durant, and bring an even more relentless style to the series. The two played with each other in Oklahoma City.

    Westbrook downplayed the relationship saying there isn’t any “beef” between the former teammates.

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    “I’ve got nothing but respect for him and things he’s done with his career, and happy to see him back from injury,” Westbrook said of Durant’s recent sprained ankle. “But he knows I’m going to compete, and I know he’s going to compete, and that’s all it is.”

    Lue said the Clippers know what they are in for. They split their season series with the Suns at two games apiece, but the Clippers didn’t face trade deadline acquisition Durant in their two victories.

    Still, Lue said the Clippers know they have an opportunity to erase the memories of last season, when they fought to qualify for the play-in tournament then lost both games and went home.

    “We know the Suns are a great team and (they have) a great coach in Monty Williams, but we’re up for the challenge. We’re in the playoffs, and it’s about being locked in,” Lue said.


    First-round series schedule (best-of-seven)

    Game 1: at Suns, Sunday, 5 p.m.

    Game 2: at Suns, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

    Game 3: at Clippers, Thursday, April 20, 7:30 p.m.

    Game 4: at Clippers, Saturday, April 22, 12:30 p.m.

    x-Game 5: at Suns, Tuesday, April 25, TBD

    x-Game 6: at Clippers, Thursday, April 27, TBD

    x-Game 7: at Suns, Saturday, April 29, TBD

    x – if necessary

    ​ Orange County Register