Kawhi Leonard’s knee injury late in the L.A. Clippers’ Game 4 has completely transformed these Western Conference semifinals. Paul George’s heroics in Salt Lake City have delivered some breathing room.
Despite coming in as a 7-point underdog due to Leonard reportedly injuring his ACL, the Clippers turned around a 65-60 deficit thanks to a big fourth quarter and held on despite a raucous sell-out crowd wishing ill will upon them late Wednesday night. George, who has been ridiculed on social media as “Playoff P” due to his tendency to shrink this time of year, wound up with 37 points and 16 rebounds.
Those “Pandemic P” taunts can stop too. Marcus Morris, Sr., who was dreadful to open the series against Utah after being the unsung hero in L.A.’s Game 7 win over the Dallas Mavericks, helped make up for Leonard’s absence with 25 points while point guard Reggie Jackson added 22 points.
Although Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 32 points, the Clippers successfully shut down Donovan Mitchell, holding him to his worst performance of the series. His 21 points fell well below the 33.5 that were expected of him in the player prop markets and he fell just short of his 5.5 assists number in finishing with only five.
Rudy Gobert was successful in avoiding significant foul trouble and played 41 minutes, coming up with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but the Clippers were still able to score 119 points in beating the Jazz by shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Utah hit 20 3-pointers and still lost.
The Jazz are still favored to defeat the Clippers in Staples Center in Game 6, listed as 2-point chalk at most shops. DraftKings lists L.A. as a -177 favorite to reach the Western Conference finals after becoming the first team to win in Utah this postseason. If you don’t expect Leonard to return in the series, the top-seeded Jazz are a +145 choice to turn things around.
Full Clippers Vs. Jazz Betting Odds
The Phoenix Suns await the winner of this series and are hoping to see it go seven games since point guard Chris Paul landed COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday despite being vaccinated. He now needs to negative tests and at least a couple of days to fully ensure he’s not afflicted with the coronavirus to return to the court, which puts his availability for the start of the Western Conference finals in jeopardy. If Jazz-Clippers goes seven games, he may not miss any time. If it ends on Friday and the next series opens on Sunday, he could miss both of the first two contests.
The Jazz are just trying to get back home for a Sunday winner-take-all game but will face a more daunting challenge because COVID restrictions in Los Angeles have been lifted and Staples Center can now host a sell-out crowd on Friday night. Those cardboard cutouts will now be replaced by actual screaming Clippers fans, and considering the Jazz failed to pick up a road win in Games 3 and 4, that’s not encouraging.
Of course, not having to face Leonard will lighten the load, which is why Utah is labeled as a slight favorite. If the ACL injury isn’t serious, there’s a chance he would play in Game 7 but he’s not going to be available on Friday night. Few in the NBA are as meticulous about not playing unless they’re close to 100 percent as Leonard is, which is why he ended up having a falling out in San Antonio. Ultimately, he delivered a championship to Toronto and would be in position to do something historic for the Clippers if he can get back into the lineup.
The total for Game 6 has been set at 220, which is consistent to where it has been in the series. If you’re looking for a betting angle, expect Mitchell to have a strong bounce-back game after failing to surpass Karl Malone’s team record of six consecutive 30-point games in the playoffs due to Wednesday’s rough shooting night. On the Clippers’ side, Morris and Terrence Mann look good for increased roles that could help deliver on their points props.