The Jazz cashed as the only underdog series winner in Round 1 of the 2017 NBA playoffs with their Game 7 victory over the fourth-seeded Clippers. Up next, the odds-on Finals favored Golden State Warriors.
The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers dueled in the most competitive first-round series of the 2017 NBA playoffs. It was the only one to go to a Game 7. Moreover, eight points or less decided each contest but the last. Utah’s 104-91 win at the Staples Center in the series finale on Sunday was the lone semi-blow out. The Jazz took a 9-5 lead after the first four minutes and never looked back. The Clippers tied it once 24-24 with just seconds to play in the first quarter, but failed to jump ahead at any point after. Had L.A. kept the final score within 10 points, it would have been just the fourth 7-game NBA playoff series in which every contest was decided by single digits, according to Elias Sports Bureau; so much for that.
Utah won a remarkable three games at the Staples Center. We mentioned in our league-wide first-round playoff review how home-court advantage proved to be weaker this postseason than in recent history with road teams covering the spread better than 65 percent of the time.
The Jazz tipped off +205 underdogs to win the Clippers series prior to Game 1. The odds stretched to +300 after dropping two of first three games with star center Rudy Gobert on the mend. Utah is just the second pup of 2-to-1 odds or more to win a first-round series in the last four seasons (Trail Blazers, 2016).
Utah’s odds to make it through the second round vs. the top-seeded Golden State Warriors are much greater. Books are opening the Jazz around +2000 or higher to win the best-of-seven battle. In the last 13 NBA playoff 1-5 matchups, the underdog has not claimed one series victory. The Memphis Grizzlies beat the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in 2013, going off at -130 odds prior to Game 1 with Russell Westbrook out from an injury sustained in the first round. Only one series has even stretched out the full seven games, with the Houston Rockets ultimately falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 finale.
Look for the Warriors to wrap the series up quickly. Golden State’s 11.9-point average scoring margin was the fourth highest in NBA history. Utah posted a 3.6 differential. Since 2002, when the gap is greater than 5 points in a 1-5 playoff matchup, the top seed is 20-4 SU and 15-8-1 ATS, winning by 8.8 points per game. In five scenarios, only one series has gone six games (Hawks, Bulls 2011).