Injuries and illnesses haven’t made the Western Conference first-round series between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers any less entertaining. The squads are tied at two games apiece heading into today’s Game 5 in LA (10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on TNT).
The fact that the series is tied at two games apiece has to feel like a win for Utah, which has essentially only played one game with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert. Gobert returned from his knee injury in Game 4 to post a line of 15 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in just 24 minutes, leading Utah to victory. Gordon Hayward also missed most of Game 4 with food poisoning and should return for Game 5.
Los Angeles has had a solid series, but the team is now without star power forward Blake Griffin for the rest of the postseason with a toe injury. On a more positive note, Austin Rivers will play his first game on Tuesday after missing 11 contests with a hamstring injury.
Before we can get to the betting predictions and picks for this preview, we will look at the influencing issues that should decide tonight’s contest.
Is Gordon Hayward Well Enough to Play at a Star Level for the Jazz?
Hayward played just nine minutes in Game 4 before leaving due to a food poisoning-related illness. He didn’t look like himself at all in those nine minutes, but his teammates picked up their intensity and ended up getting the win.
He did travel to Los Angeles and he is not on the injury report for Game 5. Since the stakes are so high, I’m assuming he will play but I have some doubt as to whether he will look the star player he is.
Remember, Hayward dropped 40 points on 13-of-21 shooting against Los Angeles in the Game 3 loss. Utah gets a huge lift if it can depend on its top offensive player to perform at his normal levels.
Although it didn’t end up hurting the Jazz that much in Game 4, there’s a trickle-down effect when a squad’s best scorer doesn’t play or is limited. Other lesser players must carry a bigger load that they aren’t used to, and can often fold under the pressure. Utah can’t have that happen on the road in Game 5.
Which Bench Veteran Scorer Will Have a Better Game?
Game 4 between these teams was super fun to watch for a variety of reasons. Maybe the top reason was how two veteran sixth men, 35-year-old Joe Johnson of the Jazz and 37-year-old Jamal Crawford of the Clippers, stepped up for their squads.
Johnson dumped in 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting, along with five rebounds and five assists, taking over the game in the fourth quarter. Crawford wasn’t a huge factor in crunch time, but he did score 25 points in the contest on 9-of-13 shooting.
Both these teams have steady starting lineups that will get their production. But bench scoring can be inconsistent for each squad, and both reserve groups’ veteran leaders must set the tone.
Can Los Angeles Push the Pace a Bit?
So far the pace of this series has been exactly the one Utah wants. Slow and methodical possessions favor a Jazz team that likes to use its size in the half court. Los Angeles has scored only 9.0 points per game in transition. That number was 15.3 during the regular season.
The Clippers have had a tougher time scoring than is necessary because they aren’t getting those easy looks before the Jazz can set up their defense. Chris Paul needs to set the tone early in Game 5 by pushing the ball up the floor on Utah misses, and his teammates need to help him by running up the floor.
Austin Rivers is a strong weapon on the fast break. Starting shooting guard J.J. Redick is also a dangerous spot-up shooter in transition who has hardly gotten off any shots in this series (credit Utah’s Joe Ingles). Perhaps a dedication to a faster pace for Los Angeles can get Rivers and Redick going as offensive threats.
Our Preview’s Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Clippers Game 5 Betting Picks & Predictions
This matchup is a toss-up in my opinion, which means there is some value to be had with the outsiders in the betting. The Clippers don’t have Griffin, which is a significant loss, but this team will still compete hard with Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and a cast of veteran role players.
Utah is really dependent on whatever production Gordon Hayward can give them, though. Role players traditionally play worse on the road, so the Jazz need a real star presence to guide them tonight. Hopefully for the Jazz, Rudy Gobert can be his normal self as well.
Considering the way this Game 5 is shaping up my predictions are:
- Given that the spread with the top offshore bookies has the Clippers as 3 to 3.5 point favorites, this preview recommends going with Utah here. It is the deeper team, has some momentum from a great Game 4 finish and won’t have to deal with Blake Griffin. Bet on Utah Jazz +3.5pts @ best odds for that spread of -115 with Bovada or BetOnline. The other firms are +3pts @ -110.
- The listed over-under for this game is predominantly 196.5pts. Los Angeles should push the pace a bit here, but there was some impressive shot-making by both teams in Game 4 that I don’t expect to happen again in Game 5. The pick is to bet the under 196.5pts total points @ -110 with MyBookie. The other sportsbooks who go that spread are -115.