After coming back from 2-0 down against the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Clippers looked to be gassed in Tuesday’s three-point loss to the Jazz, going up by nearly 20 points in the first half but slowly growing fatugued and losing the game. With the matchup still tilted a bit towards Los Angeles, it seems unfair to make them three-point underdogs once again on Thursday, yet here we are. Utah has skated by all postseason, and could have a loss coming its way on Thursday. One way or another, there’s value to be found here, and we’ll help you find it.
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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
Thursday, June 10, 2021 – 10:00 PM ET at Vivint Smart Home Arena
Offensive Performance Promises Better Results
Baby steps, baby steps. Look at how the Clippers performed against one of the league’s best defenses in Game 1! Going to Utah, LA scored 117.2 points per 100 possessions, continuing on with a theme we saw in the opening-round series against Dallas which was offensive efficiency. That was all in spite of Paul George going 4-for-17 from the field, too.
George was awful, and frankly so was Kawhi Leonard, who scored 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Yet LA, with both of its prime scorers having off nights, still only lost by three points to one of the league’s most efficient teams (probably the most efficient) during the regular season. Why’s that? Well, for one, Luke Kennard was splendid with 18 points in 29 minutes.
DeMarcus Cousins also gave this team four solid minutes, with six points, three rebounds and a block. Rajon Rondo had five points, five rebounds and four assists. Ivica Zubac had 11 points in 20 minutes. The bench stepped up big time for the Clippers.
As long as LA sees some positive regression with its stars — which it really should, considering these are two of the best players in the whole world — it will have a puncher’s chance in this series, and especially in Game 2. The Clippers were 21-18-1 against the spread this year on the road, and should be up to the task here in Utah. They took the crowd out of the proceedings for the entire first half, and should be up to the same tricks tonight.
What’s Going on With This Defense?
The Jazz rose to power in the West with some hard-nosed defense, but that has fallen by the wayside this summer. In their opening-round series win over the Grizzlies (which was rather convincing), Utah powered up on the offensive end to score a whopping 123.4 points per 100 possessions, but its defense was an afterthought, allowing 115 points per 100 possessions to a Memphis team that simply wasn’t that special on the offensive end.
As we touched on above, the story was the same in Game 1, with this squad looking uninterested on that end and letting the Clippers’ depth pieces blow by them. Things need to change fast, because this Clippers offense is only going to get more dangerous as the series wears on and George and Leonard settle in.
There’s hope here, though — the Jazz shot 34% from three, and as one of the best three-point shooting teams in all of basketball stand to perform a little bit better than that as the series goes on. Consider the fact that they shot 50 threes in this game, though, and reflect back on how the Rockets fared in the postseason doing the same thing. Sometimes, your shots simply don’t fall, no matter how many you put up. That’s why it’s good that Utah has Donovan Mitchell, who is a three-level scorer.
I think we’ll see plenty more go right here for the Clippers on offense, which is why I think they’ll win this game. Getting three points on the better team in this series is a gift, and I do believe LA is better top to bottom. It has the better stars, the better role players and the better bench depth. For my NBA picks, I predict that the series will turn in Utah on Thursday night with the Clippers evening things up 1-1.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.