Clippers at Jazz Pick: Los Angeles Clippers (+120)
While the Phoenix Suns appear primed to get rid of the Denver Nuggets in short order, perhaps the other Western Conference semifinal matchup will provide some intrigue. We saw the Clippers jump out to a 13-point lead at the half of Game 1 on Tuesday night before Donovan Mitchell woke up and led the Jazz to a thrilling comeback in the second half.
Utah eventually escaped with a narrow 112-109 victory when Marcus Morris’ game-tying three-point attempt was blocked by Rudy Gobert at the buzzer. Utah took a 1-0 series lead without Mike Conley, who has already been ruled out of Thursday’s Game 2 with a lingering hamstring injury. Mitchell thrived in Game 1 even without Conley, but we’ll see whether his continued absence proves costly tonight.
Losing Game 1 on Tuesday wasn’t a huge surprise after the Clippers had just played a Game 7 against the Mavericks two days prior. LA looked up for the fight for the first 24 minutes of Game 1, but fatigue set in as the game wore on. The Jazz were buoyed by their incredibly enthusiastic home crowd as the Clippers’ two superstars struggled offensively.
The fact that the Clips kept that game close has to be encouraging for them. LAC had a chance to steal that game despite both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George enduring rough nights on the offensive end. Leonard was held to 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting, while George shot an atrocious 4-for-17 on his way to 20 points. PG did most of his damage on 10 free-throw attempts.
The role players stepped up. Luke Kennard and Ivica Zubac combined to score 29 points off the bench, while Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson both shot the ball well. Rajon Rondo was absolutely horrible off the bench, so we’ll see whether Ty Lue decides to give the veteran point guard many more opportunities. Rondo was a minus-three in his 28 minutes of action as Jackson dealt with foul trouble.
It sounds simple, but even an average offensive outing from George or Leonard in Game 1 likely results in a Clippers victory. I would expect both of them to be up to the challenge on Thursday night. We saw the Clips erase an early 0-2 series deficit in the first round against Dallas, but trying to come back from that kind of early setback won’t be quite as easy against this Jazz team.
Mitchell Leading the Charge
Conley’s absence means Mitchell has the ball in his hands even more than usual. Based on the damage he did on Tuesday, the Jazz should have no qualms with that. Mitchell was completely unstoppable in Game 1, finishing with a game-high 45 points on blistering 16-for-30 shooting from the field.
The Clippers attempted to use Kennard on Mitchell defensively for much of the game, which is a matchup Mitchell happily abused. While Kennard was excellent offensively in Game 1, I doubt we see him tasked with guarding Utah’s leading scorer much in tonight’s rematch. Don’t be surprised if Kawhi Leonard gets more time on Mitchell in this one.
Mitchell’s 45-point eruption was a surprise after his largely dormant first-half showing. The All-Star guard scored just 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting before the break as the Clippers jumped out to a 60-47 halftime lead. He began the second half playing with more intensity, though, and he drilled 11 of his 16 shots after the intermission.
Utah shot 17-for-5o from three-point range on Monday, wich Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson combining for 12 of those makes. Joe Ingles was quiet (1-for-8), while Bojan Bogdanovic was held to just 6-for-14 shooting from the floor. If the Clippers are able to do a better job in keeping Mitchell out of the paint in Game 2, Utah will need at least one of those ancillary pieces to step into a bigger scoring role.
Fatigue was clearly an issue for the Clippers in Game 1 after the short layoff from the first to the second round. Utah had more time off between series, but the teams will be on level footing in that regard for the remainder of the series. The Jazz needed an otherworldly effort from Mitchell just to eke out a win on Tuesday. If he struggles more tonight, Utah could find itself in a tough spot.
This isn’t a must-win for the Clippers, but stealing a game on the road before returning to Staples Center would have them feeling quite a bit better about their long-term prospects in this series. We have seen this franchise fold time and time again in the postseason over the years, but something about this Clippers team feels different.
Leonard should be more assertive offensively in Game 2, while the Clips’ extra depth will give them an edge if they can keep Mitchell from going off. Winning in Salt Lake City is no easy task for any road team, but I like LA to steal one and even things up tonight. Take the option at BetUS for the Clippers’ +120 moneyline.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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