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Two teams hopiwg to capture their first-ever NBA title will square off in game one of the Western Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Clippers visit the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena. Fourth-seeded Los Angeles is just two days removed from winning a game seven over the Dallas Mavericks by a score of 126-111 as a six-point favorite. After finishing the regular season with the best record in the NBA, Utah took care of the Memphis Grizzlies in five games, capped off by a 126-110 win last Wednesday as a nine-point favorite.
These teams met three times in the regular season, with the Jazz holding a 2-1 advantage including a 106-100 win in the only meeting in Utah on New Year’s Day.
Clippers rally from 2-0 deficit to take series
Los Angeles looked headed for another playoff heartbreak after dropping the first two games of its opening round series against Dallas, but won four of the next five matchups, turning in a dominant fourth quarter on Sunday at the Staples Center. After Dallas took a 79-76 lead midway through the third, Los Angeles unleashed a 24-6 run over the rest of the quarter, and the Mavericks never got back within single digits.
Kawhi Leonard dominated with 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on 10-15 shooting from the floor, while Paul George erased his elimination game demons with 22 points and 10 assists. The Clippers offense was terrific, shooting 50% from the field including 23/43 from three, while Dallas went just 10/36 from beyond the arc.
“It’s all about the moment,” Leonard said via the Associated Press after putting up a historically good performance in the last two games with Los Angeles facing elimination. “You got to be aggressive all night and don’t try to make the game be perfect.”
The Clippers have a strong record against the spread at 43-35-1 and covered in four of the last five games against the Mavericks. Overs are 38-39-2 for the Clippers, including 3-4 in the postseason so far.
Los Angeles turned in a strong season offensively with an average of 114 points per game on 52.9% shooting from two and 41.1% shooting from three, the latter of which is the best mark in basketball. The Clippers are fourth in scoring defense with opponents putting up 107.8 points per game on 52.9% shooting from two and 35.6% shooting from beyond the arc.
Leonard was one of the best all-around players in the NBA for yet another season, averaging 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game on 51.2% shooting from the floor. George was not far behind with an average of 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
The only injury concern for the Clippers is forward Serge Ibaka, who is listed as doubtful for Tuesday with a back problem after missing the last five games of the Dallas series.
Jazz roll into second round behind dominant offense
After dropping game one at home, Utah took care of Memphis in dominant fashion with four straight wins while averaging 127 points per contest. The Jazz put away last Wednesday’s deciding game five early, outscoring Memphis by a whopping 47-27 margin in the first quarter, with the lead ballooning to as many as 31 points in the third.
Donovan Mitchell was outstanding with 30 points and 10 assists on 11/15 shooting from the floor, while Rudy Gobert added 23 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks on 10-13 shooting. Utah shot a healthy 51.6% from the floor, becoming the first team in NBA history to win four straight playoff games while scoring at least 120 points in every contest.
“Donovan’s got better every single year since he’s got here and obviously having him back was key and was huge for us because of the way we’re playing now. It’s fun to play with Donovan,” Gobert told the Associated Press, referring to an ankle injury that sidelined Mitchell multiple weeks including game one against Memphis.
The Jazz are also an elite team against the spread at 45-32, and covered in all four of their wins over the Grizzlies after getting stunned in game one. Overs are an even 38-38-1 for the Jazz after the five games against Memphis all went over the betting total by a significant amount.
Utah ranks top five in scoring on both sides of the ball, with the offense averaging 116.4 points per game on shooting splits of 54.4% from two and 38.9% from three. Opponents are putting up 107.2 points per game on Utah while shooting 50.4% from two and 34.1% from beyond the arc.
Mitchell is Utah’s leading scorer by a huge amount, averaging 26.4 points per game while dishing out 5.2 assists per contest. Jordan Clarkson is next up at 18.4 points per game, while Gobert is adding 14.3 points. 13.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per contest while being the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Starting point guard Mike Conley left game five due to a nagging hamstring problem that has bothered him most of the season, and is questionable for Tuesday’s opener.
Trends via Covers.com. Utah is:
- 25-12 ATS in its last 37 home games.
- 12-4 ATS in its last 16 home games against teams with a winning record.
- Los Angeles is 1-5 ATS in its last six Conference Semifinal games.