|Moneyline||-150 / +130|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
Through the first 24 minutes of Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Los Angeles Clippers appeared to be well on the their way to stealing home-court advantage from the No. 1 seed Utah Jazz. With a 13-point lead going into the half after Nic Batum hit a three over Jazz center Rudy Gobert, it was tough to see the Jazz recovering from their rocky start.
As I’ve written about previously, there’s a price to pay coming off a seven-game series, particularly when the other team has a significant rest advantage. You can blame tired legs and the hangover effect from Game 7 or give credit to point guard Donovan Mitchell’s sensational second-half performance.
Nevertheless, it took the Jazz just one quarter to completely erase the Clippers’ double-digit halftime lead, and Utah took control of the game in the fourth quarter where it capped a 21-9 run to take a 103-93 lead with 5:22 left in regulation before eventually winning 112-109.
Now the Jazz hold a 1-0 series lead that the Clippers hope to tie. Not much has changed the power rating between these two teams as oddsmakers have installed the hometown Jazz as three-point favorites with a total of 221.5.
Let’s analyze both teams and figure out where the betting value lies for this one!
Clippers Fell Apart In Second Half
The Los Angeles Clippers don’t make anything easy on themselves. Despite the absence of Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley and the Jazz opening the game shooting just 17.9% on 5-of-28 shooting, the Clippers still failed to capitalize by stealing home court in Game 1.
At one point the Jazz missed 20 consecutive field goals while the Clippers put together a 22-2 run. While the Clippers held a 14-point lead and went into halftime up 60-47, that type of shooting performance from an opponent should be a death sentence against some of the league’s elite teams.
Along with Utah’s shooting struggles, the Clippers got off to a great start behind a hot shooting performance in which they shot 11-of-23 (47.8%) behind the arc. Kawhi Leonard struggled to stay on the court in the first half as he racked up three personal fouls, and in many ways it was the theme for the game as the Clippers struggled to defend without fouling.
Nonetheless, this was a game in which head coach Tyron Lue effectively managed his rotations properly in the first half, playing 10 guys coming off a grueling seven-game series. The Clippers role players certainly stepped up as Paul George struggled on just 1-of-7 shooting in the first half. Marcus Morris made three out of his first four field goals, Luke Kennard scored 11 points on 4-of-5 (80%) shooting, Reggie Jackson and Ivica Zubac each scored nine and eight points, respectively, and even DeMarcus Cousins chipped in 6 points.
After Nic Batum hit a three pointer at the end of the first half with Jazz center Rudy Gobert failing to recover in space, it felt like the Clippers had an advantage going small against the big Jazz lineup. Drawing Gobert out of the paint and making him play in space is the best advantage the Clippers have in this series, and it’s something I expect to cause problems for the Jazz throughout the series.
The Clippers are the No. 1 three-point shooting team in the league, shooting 41.8% this season, so on nights when the Clippers are hitting their open jumpers, the Jazz will struggle to stop this team. You have to think that the Clippers are hoping that they can making Gobert a liability in the same way that the James Harden-led Houston Rockets were able to do in their previous series against the Jazz in years past.
Unfortunately, there’s a flip side to that, as the Clippers were dominated on the boards allowing 12 offensive rebounds, surrendering 36 points in the paint. It will be interesting to see if we see more minutes for Zubac and Cousins to deal with the size and physicality of this Jazz team or if the Clippers let the chips fall where they fall, playing their brand of basketball.
With a 13-point halftime lead with Leonard in foul trouble and George struggling, the stage was set for the Clippers to steal Game 1. Unfortunately that didn’t go their way as heavy legs from a grueling seven-game series eventually caught up to them. The threes that fell in the first half stopped falling, as they went just 5-of-19 (26.3%) from behind the arc.
For as much as I praised Lue on playing 10 players in the first half to keep his players fresh, he struggled in the second half to play optimal lineups. Kennard’s first-half performance might have tricked Lue into playing him more than he normally would, and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell took full advantage. Terance Mann didn’t play any second half minutes
Although Leonard tried to will the team to victory and showed up big, scoring 16 second-half points on 7-of-13 (53.8%) shooting, George continues to not hold up his end of the bargain. George’s struggles continued throughout the game as he finished with 20 points on just 4-of-17 (23.5%) shooting. It marked the 10th time in which George shot 25% or less from the field, moving him into rare company. Outside of Russell Westbrook, most of these players exist from an era before color TV, so that should tell you how rare it is to be this shoot this poorly in the modern era.
Tuesday was Paul George's 10th career postseason game shooting 25% or worse from the field (min. 15 attempts).
That's the 3rd-most games by any player since the shot-clock era began in 1954-55.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 9, 2021
Overall, the Clippers aren’t a team that will wow you with their game plans and schemes. They need big nights from both Leonard and George in order to win, along with three-point shooting variance. I think they’ll get them eventually, but if they don’t, they could find themselves down 0-2 with this series headed back to Los Angeles, where outside of Game 7, this team hasn’t proven they have the biggest home-court advantage.
What More Can Mitchell Do For Jazz?
The Utah Jazz had an abysmal start to Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Without point guard Mike Conley, the Jazz were missing another scorer and playmaker who could create easy looks for the offense. The Jazz subsequently opened the game shooting just 17.9% on 5-of-28 shooting, while also missing 20 consecutive field goals.
Finding themselves in a double-digit deficit in the first half, All-Star point guard Donovan Mitchell refused to lose and willed this team to victory in ways we’ve seen from some of the greatest players to ever lace them up. Through his first 27 playoff games, Mitchell is averaging 27.5 points per game which puts him in elite territory, as this is only eclipsed by LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.
All things considered, Mitchell made it look easy, scoring 45 points on 16-of-30 (53.3%) shooting, including 32 points on 11-of-16 (68.8%) shooting in the second half. His playmaking was also huge for this team without Conley as he also dished out five assists. Down 13 at the half, Mitchell went on a 10-2 run to open the third quarter, and he relentlessly attacked both Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard getting to the paint at will.
Mitchell capitalized on the Clippers’ lack of rim protection. Mitchell was 7-of-11 in the paint while also getting to the line eight times. Going forward, I think we’ll see more of the younger and athletic Terance Mann defending Mitchell, as Kennard had absolutely no shot.
Rudy Gobert’s ability to play in space has been a major source of contention in this series given his struggles guarding shooters against the Clippers in the past, as well as how the Rockets exploited him in his previous playoff history. Gobert didn’t make much of an impact on the offensive end, but he made the biggest play of the night, a game-sealing block on Marcus Morris’ would-be, game-tying three-point attempt.
How Gobert performs in this series will play a major role in this series. Can he continue to defend this Clippers’ small ball unit while capitalizing on offense?
The Jazz stole a victory in a game without Conley in which they started slow, struggling to shoot from the field. However, if the Jazz start slow in Game 2 it could come back to bite them against the Clippers team that has been in Utah for a few days and has had time to get acclimated to the the altitude. The Clippers likely won’t run out of gas in this one, but can Mitchell replicate his Game 1 performance? It remains to be seen.
Although I played the Jazz in Game 1, they are fortunate to be up 1-0 right now. It took 45 points from Donovan Mitchell, foul trouble from Kawhi Leonard and Reggie Jackson and a struggling performance from Paul George to just to win by three.
Many people can flip that around and say that the Jazz won’t miss 20 consecutive shots again, but I think over the course of the game that these are two equally matched teams — one just ran out of gas after a grueling seven-game series.
With a few adjustments by their defense on Mitchell and a better game from George and the role players in the second half, the Clippers should find themselves back in this series. The Jazz still don’t have any answers for George and Leonard on the wings, so I’ll back the Clippers to tie this series up. Take the Clippers +3.
Pick: Los Angeles Clippers +3 (-110)