Perhaps the most entertaining playoff series of the first round faces a potential ending tonight as the Los Angeles Clippers visit the Utah Jazz (10:30 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN). The Jazz, somewhat surprisingly, have a 3-2 lead in the matchup and hope to advance to the second round tonight.
Injuries and illnesses have impacted both teams in these matchups. However, it’s the Jazz who have responded better. They rebounded to win Game 1 after Rudy Gobert injured his knee early in the contest, then still won Game 4 despite Gordon Hayward playing only nine minutes due to food poisoning.
Meanwhile, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin suffered a foot injury in Game 3, which was still a Los Angeles win, but his team couldn’t back him up in Game 4 and Game 5 losses.
Let’s ask some questions facing this potential elimination game for Los Angeles, then predict the betting outcomes, with customary predictions and picks, for what should be a fun game.
Can Anyone on the Clippers’ Bench Step Up?
In Game 5’s preview, I singled out Joe Johnson for the Jazz and Jamal Crawford for the Clippers as bench scorers who would be key. Johnson had another solid game (14 points, eight rebounds and three assists), but Crawford had only four points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Unfortunately for Clippers, no one else on the bench was any good, either. Los Angeles’ reserves combined for 16 points on 5-of-22 shooting and had twice as many turnovers (six) as assists (three).
So, for this game, all I’m asking is whether anyone (Crawford or otherwise) from the Clippers bench can step up to the moment to help out Los Angeles’ stars. If it’s another dry effort from the supporting players, I don’t see a scenario where the Clippers extend the series.
Can George Hill and/or Someone Else Prevent Chris Paul From Getting into a Rhythm?
Paul has absolutely owned this series, despite the fact that his Clippers face elimination tonight. He’s averaged 27.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game on a 63.3 true-shooting percentage, numbers that would look a lot more impressive if these teams weren’t playing at such a slow pace.
Somehow, CP3 is accomplishing these numbers despite being guarded by Hill, who is widely regarded as one of the best point guard defenders in the NBA. Hill is a great athlete and is much longer than Paul, but that hasn’t mattered.
The Jazz could try some different defensive coverages on the superstar point guard on Friday to prevent him from picking them apart with his scoring and passing. Straight double teams are probably too basic to trick Paul, but maybe some stronger hedges on pick-and-rolls or disguised double teams could force other Clippers to make things happen.
Will this Summer Be in the Back of the Clippers’ Minds?
The Clippers face a make-or-break offseason in a couple of months in which Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick could all potentially leave in free agency. Why would they want to stick around with a perennially good team that just can’t reach that next level?
Clippers players should be realizing that this is likely their last chance to contend for a title with this core. However, Griffin is injured and they aren’t beating the stacked Golden State Warriors in Round 2 without him, so that could weigh heavily on their minds.
Meanwhile, the Jazz are a hungry, young team on the upswing playing at home without much to lose. Keep an eye on the kind of intensity each team plays with.
Our Preview’s LA Clippers vs. Utah Jazz Game 6 Betting Picks & Predictions
The stage seems set for a Jazz win. The Clippers are without Blake Griffin, they have a history of playoff collapses and the game will be in Utah.
I do predict that Utah will close this series out tonight, but Chris Paul has been traditionally amazing in elimination games. He will put forth an amazing game that will challenge that “playoff choker” label he has unfairly received throughout his career. So now to our preview’s predictions and betting picks:
- The top online betting sites that accept American players have Utah favored by either 5.5 or 6 points. I believe the game will be closer than that because LA easily has the best player in the series. Pick the Clippers +6pts @ -110 with MyBookie or 5Dimes.
- Most betting outlets list 192.5 as the over/under for tonight’s game with a couple at 193pts. I do believe the pace will pick up a bit in Game 6 as desperation sets in for the Clippers. Plus, a very close game often means lots of fouls and stoppages of play. Bet the over 192.5pts with 5Dimes, MyBookie or BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.