NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Clippers vs. Jazz Betting Preview (Wednesday, June 16)
Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images. Pictured: Paul George #13 along with teammate Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers.
- The Jazz are a favorite over the Clippers in Game 5 of their NBA playoff series on Wednesday night after news broke that Kawhi Leonard will miss tonight's game and possibly more.
- Leonard reportedly injured his ACL in Game 4, though the severity isn't known. Utah was a 2.5-point favorite before the news, so Leonard's absence moved the line about 4.5 points.
- Get Raheem Palmer's Clippers vs. Jazz pick and preview below.
Clippers vs. Jazz Odds
|Moneyline||-280 / +240|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
For the second consecutive playoff series the Los Angeles Clippers found themselves with a 2-0 deficit and like clockwork, they fought back to tie the series 2-2.
In true Clippers fashion, though, the franchise that can’t catch a break suffered another awful as Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out of Game 5 after suffering a knee injury in Game 4 and could be out the remainder of the series. The loss of Leonard is gigantic blow for the Clippers hopes of winning the series as well as their championship aspirations.
Meanwhile Donovan Mitchell has come back to earth after averaging 41 points over first two games of this series. The series now returns to Utah where the Jazz have lost just six games all season, including the postseason.
The Jazz also hope have point guard Mike Conley (questionable – hamstring) back in the lineup for the first time since Game 5 of their first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Oddsmakers have the hometown Jazz listed as 7-point favorites with a total of 221, which is massive move from the opener of Jazz -3 and with a total of 222. Can the Jazz take control of this series or will George put the team on his back and lead them to victory without Leonard.
Let’s analyze both sides and find out where the betting value lies.
The Clippers Will Have to Adjust Without Leonard
It truly felt like the Clippers had taken control of this series in L.A. However, things took a drastic turn at the end of Game 4 when Leonard left the game with 4:35 to go after bumping knees with Joe Ingles when driving to the basket.
In the postgame interview with TNT, Leonard was unfazed by his knee injury, but his status for the rest of the series and postseason is now up in the air.
This is a catastrophic loss for the Clippers and George will have to lead this team to the promised land. George has been aggressive driving to the lane even and he’ll have to do that more while creating plays for his teammates.
If there’s any hope for the Clippers, it lies in Marcus Morris stepping up to fill the gaps offensively. Morris finally found his shooting form, making 5-of-6 3-pointers in Game 4 after shooting 1-of-16 from behind the arc in the first three games.
He is an integral part of the Clippers’ lineup and if he can find his shooting stroke going forward, the Clippers, who ranked first in 3-point shooting percentage (41%) this season, will be even tougher to defend.
If he can find his shooting stroke going forward, the Clippers who were first in three point shooting percentage (41%) will be even tougher to defend even in the absence of Leonard.
The Clippers’ small-ball lineup has worked wonders on both sides of the ball, forcing Gobert to defend their shooters in space while providing L.A. with the ability to switch defensively and sell out on Mitchell on the other end of the floor. With the Clippers trapping and doubling Mitchell, the Jazz offense has become dependent on whether role players can hit outside shots. Without Conley in the lineup, the Jazz don’t have another creator to help them get anything easy.
Without Leonard however, the Clippers small ball lineup isn’t doesn’t have the same kick to it. The five man lineup of Batum-George-Leonard-Jackson-Morris has a Net Rating of +6.1 in 147 minutes during the post season, putting up an Offensive rating of 120.7 and a Defensive Rating of 114.6.
During the last two wins, this lineup has a Net Rating of +9.5 with an Offensive Rating of 123.6 and a Defensive Rating of 114.1
While he might not make the moves as quickly as we’d liked, Tyronn Lue has pressed all the right buttons. From starting Reggie Jackson over Patrick Beverley to removing Ivica Zubac from the the starting lineup, Lue has proven that he can make the right adjustments.
The biggest adjustment I’ve liked from Lue was adding Terance Mann back into the rotation. Although he hasn’t added much from the scoring perspective, he’s energy and ability to defend has had a huge impact for this team as the Clippers have outscored the Jazz by 42 points in the 44 minutes Mann has played in this series.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is a situation Lue can overcome on adjustments alone. They were already dealing with disadvantages at point guard and center and now without Leonard, their advantage at the wings isn’t the same. The Clippers are truly fighting an uphill battle.
Small Ball is Hurting the Jazz
As this series goes on it is becoming increasingly clear that the Jazz likely won’t win this series without Conley. During Games 1 and 2, the Jazz were able to survive based on heroic performances from Mitchell. Unfortunately for the Jazz, there’s only so much Mitchell can do, especially when he is still dealing with a right ankle injury.
The Clippers have made the right adjustments to take away Utah’s best option by trapping him every time he has the ball. With no other playmaker, the Jazz offense has struggled as the Clippers simply aren’t respecting the other options.
Given the pressure the Clippers are putting on Mitchell, the rest of the Jazz players need to hit their 3s consistently — in Game 4 they shot just 33.3% from behind the arc in the first half. While that should regress at home, it feels like the Clippers have figured out the Jazz offensively without Conley in the lineup.
With the Clippers playing small-ball for large parts of the game, you’d like to see Rudy Gobert impose his will and become a bigger factor on the offensive end of the floor. Gobert is averaging just 11.5 points per game in this series compared to 17.4 in their first round series against the Grizzlies and 14.3 in the regular season.
The real concern is on the defensive end of the floor where Gobert is struggling to maintain his Defensive Player of the Year level impact against the Clippers small ball lineup. With the Clippers spreading the Jazz out, putting Gobert in space he’s a liability against their five shooters.
Take a look at this possession in which Steve Jones Jr. breaks down how the Clippers get a wide open 3-point attempt.
Again…I'm concerned with Rudy Gobert's impact defensively against this small lineup. Kawhi pushes in transition, Rudy getting back but he can't just sprint right back to the paint. Now he's in space. Sees Kawhi drives and he goes with it. Wide open 3 for Morris. pic.twitter.com/PMvOKoiPDd
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) June 15, 2021
Gobert has just one block in each of his last two games, compared to two blocks in Game 1 and three blocks in Game 2. In addition, he’s was just a -16 in Game 3.
There are things the Jazz can clean up, particularly many of the drives to the basket as the Clippers scored 44 points in the paint in game 3 and 32 in the paint in Game 4.
Still, with all the spacing the Clippers have on the floor, you can’t defend everything and you have to wonder if there are any more adjustments Quin Snyder can make.
In Games 1 and 2 of this series, Mitchell was able to outplay both Leonard and George. That hasn’t been the case since the Clippers made it their duty to prevent him from beating them on his own.
When you combine that with the attrition that comes with maintaining a 42.6% Usage Rate all while dealing with an ankle injury, a drop off in play is to be expected. Mitchell’s performance in the first two games of this series was never sustainable and it was clear the Clippers figured out how to defend the Jazz.
With the Clippers’ stars showing up on both sides of the ball and their ability to neutralize Gobert on both sides of the ball, it appeared that the Clippers had the edge in this series, until the Leonard injury was reported.
Unfortunately, this could be a death blow for the Clippers who were already at a severe disadvantage at guard and center and having five wings in Leonard, George, Batum, Morris and Mann gave this team the versatility on both ends of the floor.
That’s gone without Leonard and this Jazz team should have a much easier time scoring and defending. George has been great in this series but he’s not meant to be a No. 1 scoring option and the Jazz should be able to sell out him and force others to beat them.
It’s unfortunate because the Clippers appeared to be in the drivers seat going forward but there’s no other way to look than to back the Utah Jazz at home.
Pick: Utah Jazz -7 (-110)