The Jazz and Clippers return to L.A. for Game 5 on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET) with the series tied 2-2 in the best-of-seven matchup. Who will get the upper hand in the series?
Utah’s Rudy Gobert returned to action in Game 4 after missing the previous two contests with a hyperextended knee, helping the Jazz to a much-needed 105-98 win over the Clippers on Sunday night. The star center wasn’t moving like his normal self, yet managed to score 15 points, collect 13 rebounds and swat two shots in 24 minutes.
Gobert’s presence in the paint is unmatched on both ends of the court, even when slightly hobbled. The Jazz outscored the Clip 58-36 under the hoop on Sunday after L.A. won the battle by 42 points total in the previous two games. Gobert also held most of L.A.'s frontcourt in check. The Clippers shot just 34 percent from the floor when you take away Chris Paul (27 points) and Jamal Crawford’s (25 points) performances.
Since Gobert, the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, became a regular starter last season, Utah is 4-15 SU and 7-12 ATS when he sits versus foes averaging 100 points or more for the season. Opponent points totals jump to 104.3 per game from a 96.8 average with Gobert in the starting lineup.
The star of Game 4 was 35-year-old Joe Johnson. The Clippers had no answers for the veteran, seven-time All-Star. "Iso Joe," as he was dubbed in Atlanta, put up 11 consecutive points, and scored or assisted on 20 straight, in the fourth quarter comeback.
L.A. missed Blake Griffin badly in the matchup, out for the playoffs with an injured toe sustained in Game 3. The injury- and illness-marred series took another weird turn at halftime when Jazz forward Gordon Hayward went to the bench for the remainder of the game due to a case of food poisoning. The All-Star, coming off a career-high 40-point night, appeared off from the get-go, scoring just three points in nine minutes through the first two-quarters. Hayward should be 100 percent for Game 5.
As of publication, oddsmakers have yet to set a line for Game 5. Bettors need to watch this number closely. Over the last 15 years, four-seeds laying 5 points or more are 15-2 SU and 9-7 ATS. With a spread lower than this, they slump to a 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS mark.
Both teams will struggle to hit the century mark in points, but look for the Clippers to fire out of the gates with the urging of the home crowd. Paul and crew rally from a dismal fourth on Sunday to score 50-plus points through the first two-quarters in Game 5. For my NBA pick, I suggest you lay the points with the Clip through the first half.