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Jazz Looking to Hit High Notes vs. Clippers

Updated: .April 16, 2017

By Charles Jay

For the Los Angeles Clippers, this may be something of a “last stand,” as they have to demonstrate that they can perform when the playoff lights are on. Last season represented a major disappointment for them, and now they’re facing the possibility of their biggest stars, like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, leaving for free agency. It could be house-cleaning time for the “other” team in Tinseltown. So they have an opportunity for some redemption, as they take on the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of their West playoff series.

The Clippers have won three of the four meetings between themselves and the Jazz, but we’re not sure any real conclusions can be drawn from that. That’s because Utah hasn’t even had its best starting lineup on the floor for more than a handful of games. There is no other team in the NBA that has been hit as hard by the injury bug, and it’s not as if they have had players going out for lengthy periods of time. It is more a case of one or two of the useful members of their rotation going out at different times, with a full contingent never available.

This might become a defensive struggle; then again, maybe it won’t be. We do know that Utah is really in no mood to step up the tempo here, as they consistently played at the slowest pace in the NBA this season. The Clippers are looking to hit their three-pointers, that’s for sure, and Utah happens to defend the two-pointer a lot better than the triple.

In the NBA playoff odds posted on this game by the folks at America’s Bookie, where you can enjoy two live betting options even after the game has started, the Clippers are favored:

Los Angeles Clippers -5.5
Utah Jazz +5.5

Over 198 points -110
Under 198 points -110

It appears as if Utah is about as healthy as it’s been a while. They recently got Derrick Favors back into the rotation after he sat out 14 games, and for their sake, hopefully they got significant rest for the likes of George Hill and Rodney Hood, and can bring Raul Neto back into the rotation. Utah has not been in the playoffs in the last five years, but they made some bold moves in the off-season to help their chances.

They went out and acquired Hill, a point guard who has experience on championship teams (with San Antonio), and also got another former Spur in Boris Diaw, who can play all over the court. Joe Johnson, a six-time NBA All-Star, was another acquisition who can still occasionally score in bunches. They hope that this veteran presence will help out even more in the post-season than it did in the regular season, as they actually tied the Clippers with a 51-31 straight-up record (the Clippers won the tie-breaker). And let’s not discount the return to health of backup point guard Dante Exum, who was their top draft pick a couple of years ago.

The Clippers will have to navigate a team that gave up fewer points than anyone in the league, and as we alluded to, part of that is a by-product of the deliberate pace they like to set. But even though Los Angeles boasts big stars in Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, they may have some difficulty defensively dealing with Gordon Heyward, who made his first All-Star team this season. And of course, Utah has once again benefited from the rim protection of Rudy Gobert, who is known as either the “French Rejection” or the “Stifle Tower,” and who led the NBA in blocked shots, making great strides on offense at the same time. Gobert is now a legitimate guy to throw the ball to in the post, and unlike Jordan, he doesn’t pose a potential liability at the free-throw line late in games.

If the Jazz were a team with a bunch of young kids trying to make their mark and emerging finally as a playoff contender, we’d feel differently about this. But they have successfully mixed in some people who have been there and done that. We are taking the points with Utah, as the Charles Jay/America’s Bookie Challenge continues on Saturday night.

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