The Clippers-Jazz series officially begins on Tuesday, after both teams dispatched of their lower-seeded opponents in round one. Throughout the playoffs, TGH will continue to preview the matchups as they are set, and predicting the winners debuting before each series’ tip-off. Here is a preview and prediction of the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz first round series.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers were all but left for dead after falling down 3-2 to the Dallas Mavericks. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were not clicking well offensively and the role players were less than stellar. Meanwhile, Luka Doncic continued his insane string of playoff performances, carried over from 2020.
Doncic averaged 35.7 points in the seven game series with the Clippers, which pushed his all-time playoff points per game average to 33.5. Faced with elimination two games in a row, however, Leonard scored 45 and 28 respectively. George and other players like Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson also stepped up to give the Clippers the series win.
Surprisingly, the Clippers are now the only Los Angeles-based team left in the playoffs. In the Jazz, they now face a much tougher defensive team in the semifinals.
The Jazz made short work of the play-in tournament-boosted Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. After Ja Morant and Memphis took the first game of the series, Utah rattled off four in a row to move on to the semifinal round.
There was really only one bump in the road for Utah, that being the poor decision to sit Donovan Mitchell in Game 1. The Grizzlies took advantage of their best player’s absence, winning by three as Morant and Dillon Brooks combined for 51. Once Mitchell returned, he scored 25 points or more in each of the four victories. The defense also came alive against a very underrated Memphis offense.
Given the talent of Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdonavic and Mike Conley, it is easy to see how this team earned the number one seed in the Western Conference. Now they face a veteran Clippers team that was favored to win the title in back-to-back seasons to prove their mettle.
This series could easily go seven games. The teams are mostly evenly matched, despite the Jazz not really having a dedicated defensive stopper to throw at Leonard. Utah has the better defense, but a younger team could falter here.
The Clippers have looked sleepy, however. This team only seems to wake up when it is faced with elimination, including Leonard. Plus, the bench has the tendency to disappear at some of the worst possible times.
A true bettor’s nightmare, this second round matchup could go either way. All things equal, however, it has to be taken into consideration that the Clippers just finished with a much longer, more grueling series. While the Jazz took care of the Grizzlies in five, Los Angeles faced elimination twice in their last two games. If that is the only discernible advantage, then the smart money is on the Jazz taking the series, although not easily.
Prediction: Jazz in 7
Featured Image courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images
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