LA Clippers (2-3) at Utah (3-2)
When: Friday, April 28th 2017
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Time: 10:35 ET | TV: ESPN
The Los Angeles Clippers look to force a deciding Game 7 when they visit the Utah Jazz for Game 6 of their first round series. Los Angeles put up a poor effort in Game 5 in which it scored only 58 points through three quarters before the Jazz came away with a 96-92 win at Staples Center. Point guard Chris Paul’s 3-pointer drew the Clippers within two with five seconds left. After George Hill hit two free throws, Paul struggled getting the ball under control near the sideline and couldn’t do anything as time expired. Paul led the Clippers with 28 points and J.J. Redick added 26 with injured star Blake Griffin watching from the bench, his right foot encased in a black walking boot. Redick had averaged 7.8 points over the first four games of the series. The loss of Griffin (toe) was magnified further when Marreese Speights recorded just one point while starting in Griffin’s place. The Clippers could use a little more from the bench, as the tallied just 16 points and two assists between six players.
The Jazz can win their first playoff series in seven years. Utah holds a 3-2 series lead and are aiming to close out their first postseason series since downing the Denver Nuggets in a first-round battle in 2010. Veteran swingman Joe Johnson averaged 9.2 points in the regular season but has increased that to 18.2 while leading a young squad toward a second-round clash with the top-seeded Golden State Warriors. Gordon Hayward scored 27 points, while Utah controlled the paint in their pivotal Game 5 victory. Hayward returned after missing most of Utah’s win in Game 4 because of food poisoning that caused him to lose weight and energy. The Jazz made five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter including three by Rodney Hood, who finished with 16 points. Hood is averaging 17 points over the past two games after averaging eight over the first three. After missing the first three games of the series, aside from 17 seconds, center Rudy Gobert has averaged 12 rebounds in the past two contests.
I’m looking for the Jazz to close this out in a big way. Gobert is back and playing well and Hayward should be more energized for Game 6 at home. The loss of Griffin is a huge blow to the Clippers’ chances.
Pick: Jazz -5.5
HEAD TO HEAD
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