The Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz have identical records heading into the playoff showdown in the first round of the NBA post-season.
Both teams were 51-31 at the end of the campaign, with Doc Rivers’ men narrowly edging the Jazz out of the fourth seed due to tiebreakers.
The Clippers have remained a consistent outfit this term, registering their fifth season on the bounce with 50 or more victories, although they’ve failed progress beyond the Western Conference Semi-Finals in their history in the NBA.
Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan will be aiming to do all in their power to change that record this time around, with all three players operating at a high level in the regular campaign.
With their experience along with the knowledge of Rivers in the playoffs – there’s a strong chance of them making a surge towards the Finals.
The Jazz have reached the playoffs for the first time in four years this term, with the last appearance coming in 2012 when they were soundly beaten by the San Antonio Spurs.
Quin Snyder has built a solid outfit, but they will need a series of strong performances to defeat the Clippers – who are an established unit in the post-season.
We’ll now take a look back at the regular campaigns of both sides and break down the betting odds for their first-round series.
The Clippers began their season with a strong performance on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers, with Paul and Griffin both scoring 27 points in a comfortable victory. They ended the opening month unbeaten after defeating the Jazz and the Phoenix Suns with equally strong outings.
Their winning run ended in a defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but their response was emphatic recording six wins on the bounce, including a dominant display on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.
They ended November on a low note suffering three losses on the spin, although their record was still impressive at 14-5. December look to be following in the same pattern until the Christmas period where the Clippers lost five successive matches, suffering damaging defeats to the Thunder and the Houston Rockets at the top of the Western Conference.
Rivers’ men bounced back from their disappointing run with a fine run of form to get back on track, using their six home matches to record seven wins on the spin. JJ Redick and Austin Rivers eased the pressure on Paul, Jordan and Griffin, helping the Clippers find their feet midway through term.
The Golden State Warriors loomed large and the Clippers fell to two defeats to their rivals, highlighting the challenge ahead of them in the playoffs, while another loss came at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
Their charge for the top two seeds was ended in March due to the form of Golden State and the Spurs, but Rivers’ men got over the line with a win over the Jazz. Los Angeles ensured that they entered the playoffs on a high note with a seven-match winning streak, sending out a warning to the top sides in the Western Conference.
The Jazz are not loaded with experienced talent, although some of players are starting to take the NBA by force, especially this term.
Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert have launched themselves on the way to stardom, with the former securing his first All-Star berth, while the latter was a dominant force in front of the net – earning most blocks in the league this season.
Defense has been the foundation of their success, with Snyder’s men allowing the fewest point in the league. Therefore their opponents are going to have work extremely hard to advance in the first-round clash.
Their regular campaign began with defeat at the hands of the Trail Blazers, but the Jazz were able to get off the mark by beating the Los Angeles Lakers in their second contest. The Clippers brushed them aside in their first meeting of the campaign, although their form was building.
Utah made a statement by defeating the San Antonio, inflicting the first defeat of the campaign on Gregg Popovich’s men. November would be a solid month, with the club winning 10 of their 16 matches, despite losing four matches on the bounce.
However, the Jazz remained consistent through to the end of 2016, although they did suffer a hammering at the hands of the Warriors. Hayward began to come into his own during the month with a number of dominant performances, with his best coming in a 32-point display against the Denver Nuggets.
Snyder’s men secured a signature win over the Cavaliers in January in one of their nine victories in the month, while February put them on course with Hayward starring for the club. They got over the line at the end of March before securing their first Northwest Division crown in nine years.
There’s little to choose between the two sides ahead of the clash, although the experience boasted by the Clippers will stand them in good stead.
Rivers’ men won three of the four meetings between the sides this season, including one of their clashes on the road in February.
Paul, Jordan and Griffin have just enough quality between them to overwhelm the Jazz’s defense, which should swing the balance of the contest towards Los Angeles.
All three of the players are seasoned campaigners in the post-season compared to that of Hayward and Gobert, who will be playing in their first playoff series when the matches get underway this weekend.
Utah have the strongest defense in the NBA, and although defense travels it will not be enough to fend off the experience and the quality possessed by Paul, Jordan and Griffin, who are desperate to deliver success for the Clippers to surge towards the Finals.
As a result, backing Rivers’ side to beat the Jazz in their series at odds of -170 is the bet to take with Paddy Power. However, the scoreline should be fairly close, with good odds of +500 for the Clippers to win the series in the six on a 4-2 margin.
Los Angeles Clippers To Beat Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Clippers To Beat Utah Jazz 4-2