For the second time in three nights, the Utah Jazz will take on the Clippers in downtown Los Angeles. The Jazz got the better of LA the first time around by the final score of 114-96. While the result looks like a blowout, the shorthanded Clippers were able to hang tough for most of the game before Utah pulled away late.
We’ll see what happens in the rematch tonight. The Jazz opened as 2.5-point favorites here, but the line has since shifted to Jazz -4. There’s plenty of uncertainty here thanks to the Clippers’ injury report. Paul George is still out with a toe ailment, while Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, and Luke Kennard are all questionable. All three missed Wednesday’s game, but they could return this evening.
Jazz on a Roll
Utah opted to roll with a continuity-based approach this past offseason. While most Western Conference contenders made moves, the Jazz kept the band together. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert both signed massive contract extensions that’ll keep them in Salt Lake City for the next several years.
While some teams have struggled to adapt to the condensed 72-game schedule, the Jazz have thrived. Utah is off to a flying 24-5 start, which includes wins in 20 of their last 21 games overall. Utah went on an 11-game winning streak last month, and they come into tonight’s game riding another nine-game unbeaten streak.
The Jazz Have an Injury Question Mark of Their Own Tonight
Mike Conley, who has missed the last few games with a hamstring problem, is questionable. The Jazz haven’t missed a beat with Conley on the sidelines, but they’re clearly a better team with their All-Star point guard in the mix. Conley is averaging 16.5 points and 5.8 assists while shooting a steady 41 percent from three-point range.
If he misses another game, Mitchell will do more of the ball-handling, while Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson will play bigger roles. The Jazz have the best win/loss record in the league, so it’s no surprise that they have also been the best against-the-spread bet in the NBA so far this season. Utah is 22-7 ATS, which means they have covered in nearly 76 percent of their games thus far.
Who’s Playing for LA?
We know George won’t hit the court tonight, but we’ll have to take a wait-and-see approach with Leonard. Kawhi has missed each of the last three games with a lower leg injury. If he misses a fourth straight game tonight, Ty Lue will have to rely much more heavily on Lou Williams to carry the offense.
Williams got off to a sluggish start to the campaign, but he has bounced back lately. So far in February, Williams is averaging 18.7 points and 6.0 assists in nearly 28 minutes per game. In the last three games with the Clips’ two All-Stars out, Sweet Lou has upped his averages to 21.3 points and 8.6 assists per outing.
Jordan Clarkson has 66 games with 20 or more points off the bench since the start of the 2017-18 season.
With Batum and Kennard also out of the lineup on Wednesday, Lue went with a starting lineup featuring Williams, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Beverley, and Reggie Jackson. That three-guard alignment is seriously lacking in size, which led to a huge night for Gobert. Utah’s big man feasted on the boards all night, finishing with 23 points and 20 rebounds against the undersized LA frontcourt.
Amir Coffey, Terence Mann, and Patrick Patterson were forced to play bigger roles off the bench. The returns of Batum and Kennard would help the Clippers’ depth, but their chances of actually winning this game likely hinge on whether Leonard suits up.
What’s the Best Bet?
The Clippers’ injury situation brings some uncertainty into the fold here, but we can use that to our advantage. If we knew Leonard was going to miss this game, the Jazz would likely be 7- or 8-point favorites on the road. His potential return means Utah is just a 4-point favorite as of this writing.
Even if Kawhi plays, Utah is still fully capable of covering that small spread on the road. The Clippers still lack firepower with George out of the lineup, and they’ll need all hands on deck if they want to slow down the high-flying Jazz. I’m not convinced that Utah is quite as good as their record may indicate, but you’re getting the chance to bet on a red-hoth team against a potentially shorthanded foe here.
I think Utah -4 is a good option regardless of Leonard’s status. The line will likely shift one way or the other here depending on the Kawhi news, so take advantage of the 4-point margin while you still can.
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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