Utah (0-0) at LA Clippers (0-0)
When: Saturday, April 15th 2017
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Time: 10:35 ET | TV: ESPN
The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, who battled each other down the stretch for the No. 4 seed, meet Saturday night in Game 1 of their first round series at Staples Center. The fourth-seeded Clippers enter the postseason with an NBA-high seven straight wins, which helped them stave off the Jazz for home-court advantage in the first round, and have won 11 of 13 overall. The Clippers are no strangers to postseason failure however, as they have advanced no further than the second round in five straight appearances. Injuries to star Blake Griffin and point guard Chris Paul hurt Los Angeles in a first-round exit against Portland last season. Los Angeles registered at least 112 points six times during its seven-game winning streak and had 124 or better on three occasions as they have found their chemistry behind Paul. The nine-time All-Star averaged 23.1 points and 10.3 assists while shooting 56% in the streak while backup Austin Rivers recovers from a hamstring injury that is expected to sideline him for a few more games. DeAndre Jordan had five straight double-doubles to finish the regular season but he was limited to an average of nine points in four meetings with Utah while shooting 51.6%, the lowest mark he had against any opponent other than Portland (50%).
The Jazz won seven of their final nine regular season games as they enter the postseason as healthy as they’ve been all year. Forward Gordon Hayward was the leader behind Utah’s first playoff berth since 2012, as he recorded career highs in scoring (21.9) and rebounding (5.4) while shooting 39.8% from three-point land. Forward Derrick Favors, who missed 31 games with knee issues as his production suffered a sharp dip, managed to play three games in the final week of the season after sitting out most of March and told reporters he could play 30 minutes a night if needed. Center Rudy Gobert finish tied for fourth in the NBA in double-doubles (58) and had one in each of the final three meetings with Clippers, including 26 points and 14 rebounds in a loss at Los Angeles on March 25th. Utah was 18-6 with Favors and Rodney Hood in the starting lineup together. The Clippers won three of four meetings this season, holding the Jazz to an average of 80.7 points in those three victories, and have won 18 of the last 20 encounters overall.
I’m pretty confident that Utah can win one of these first two games in L.A. and win the series. The Clippers have a lot of pressure to make a deeper run in the playoffs and the Jazz defense is one of the best in the league. They will slow down the hot Clippers and at least cover the spread here.
Pick: Jazz +5.5
HEAD TO HEAD
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