Seeds four through 10 in the NBA’s Western Conference are still a mess with one week left in the 2017-18 season. The two teams on the edges of that group, the 45-33 Utah Jazz (fourth seed) and the 42-36 Los Angeles Clippers (10th seed), will play in Utah today (9 p.m. ET Thursday).
This game is important for both teams, but it is an absolute must-win for the Clippers. Los Angeles is two games out of a playoff spot at the moment with only four contests remaining in the season. The Clippers got a huge win over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday to snap a two-game losing streak and will look to continue their momentum on Thursday.
The Jazz’s spot in the playoffs appears to be safe, especially considering that they have won 26 of their last 31 games. Utah has its starters all playing at a high level and a few emerging players off the bench, too. However, the Jazz are still in danger of falling a few seeds if they close the season poorly.
We will look at the determinants for this game and then decide which sides of the betting lines are smarter choices and reflect that in our Los Angeles Clippers vs Utah Jazz predictions and picks.
Can Dante Exum Continue His Fantastic Play Off The Bench?
The Jazz were doing just fine before Exum returned to the lineup 10 games ago following a five-month absence resulting from shoulder surgery. However, with his play as of late off the bench, Utah’s ceiling gets even higher.
Exum’s first four years in the NBA have been marked by several significant injuries, fantastic defense and lackluster offensive contributions. In his last five games, though, Exum has averaged 12.4 points and 3.4 assists on an excellent 72.6 true shooting percentage in a mere 16.6 minutes per game.
The Clippers have a very good bench, led by microwave scorer Lou Williams. Can Exum keep Williams in check while also continuing his strong offensive production?
Will Clippers Live at Free-Throw Line?
One of the Clippers’ strengths as a team is getting to the free-throw line. Center DeAndre Jordan is a much-improved shooter from the charity stripe, but teams still prefer to hack his muscular, explosive frame under the basket. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are two other aggressive offensive players who frequently put defensive players in difficult situations near the rim.
Utah is one of the league’s best defensive teams, maybe the best, but it is just OK at avoiding fouls. The six players who play the most minutes for the Jazz all average at least 2.1 fouls per game. The team’s best players, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, average 2.8 and 2.7 fouls per contest respectively.
The Jazz are in trouble if some of their key players, especially Gobert or Mitchell, get in foul trouble. Gobert anchors the defense from the paint, while Mitchell is the only player on the roster who can consistently create offense for both himself and others.
Who Wins Power Forward Matchup?
A key distinguishing factor in the styles of modern NBA teams are what they do with the power forward position. Some teams go with a modern traditional approach by playing a bigger, interior-focused guy, and others use a finesse player with a more diverse range of skills. The former type of team usually plays at a slower pace and shoots fewer threes, while the latter type of squad usually does the opposite.
The Clippers use Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari at the 4 position a lot, which is a more modern approach. Utah primarily utilizes Derrick Favors, who is a classic inside banger.
These players with different skill sets will guard each other in this contest. Will the bigger, slower guy win the matchup, or will the smaller, faster guys win? A lot of this has to do with how quick the pace of the game turns out to be.
Our Preview’s LA Clippers at Utah Jazz Betting Picks & Predictions
Utah is the better team and it’s easy to see why they can win. The Jazz starters are better, especially on the defensive end, and the Clippers can be inconsistent on the offensive end.
However, as we saw on Tuesday night in their win against the Spurs, the Clippers are capable of playing very hard when the stakes are high. I expect Los Angeles to bring its best effort and stay very close, if not win, the game. As a result, these are the LA Clippers vs Utah Jazz predictions for this game:
- Utah is on the strong side of the seven-point spread here, but they probably won’t win by more than that. You can find your best odds of Clippers +7pts @ -105 with BetOnline. It is -110 for the same spread with Bovada, Bookmaker and 5Dimes.
- At home, though, I expect the Jazz to dictate the pace of the game and to be on the slow side, even if Los Angeles does play with a higher effort level. So for the total points scored in the game, bet the under 211pts @ -110 with 5Dimes or BetOnline.