The Utah Jazz look to close out their first-round series vs. the Los Angeles Clippers at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Game 6 on Friday (10:35 p.m. ET). It's certainly not a sure thing. Chris Paul & Co. have a history of triumphing in playoff elimination games.
Utah stunned the Clippers 96-92 in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead. Veteran Joe Johnson was once again integral to closing out the victory. He hit the game winner in Game 1, scored or assisted on 20 straight points in the final session of Game 3, and sank two clutch shots in the final minute to put the Jazz up 92-87 and secure the win Game 5. ESPN reports Johnson is 8-for-10 in high-leverage fourth-quarter shots in the series. Clutch.
The Clippers must force more transition basketball to speed up the pace of play if they hope to extend the series. They own the NBA’s sixth-best scoring offense at 108.6 points per game but are stymied by fewer scoring opportunities via the tempo (and the Jazz’s defense in general). Utah played at the slowest pace in the league in the regular season at 91.6 possessions per game (L.A. 96.1). Head coach Quin Snyder’s unit has forced the Clips down to 89.2 in this series. Heck, Utah has equaled or had more fast-break points in three games of this playoff matchup. Grind-it-out affairs favor the Jazz in any contest against any opponent.
The Clippers slipped to 1-11 SU all-time in Game 5 of the postseason when even (2-2) for the series. Historically, No. 4 seeds trailing by a contest vs. a No. 5 have not fared well in Game 6. In the last 15 years, they are 3-8 SU and 5-5-1 ATS. All three wins occurred in four games in which the fourth seeds were favorites in the betting market.
Nevertheless, Chris Paul & Co. made noise two years ago in a similar elimination situation. Down 3-2 in the first round to the Spurs, L.A. won at San Antonio 102-96 as 5-point underdogs in Game 6, eventually taking the series. Last year, the Clips fell flat in Game 6 of the first round to the Trail Blazers after losing Paul and Blake Griffin to injuries earlier in the series.
Dating back to 2015, the Jazz are 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS when holding the Clippers to 40 rebounds or fewer in a game. The only two losses occurred when star center Rudy Gobert did not play due to injury. With Griffin out due to a toe injury, Utah controls the paint much easier and generates greater extra scoring extra chances. The Jazz have their opponents figured out and advance to take on Golden State.