The Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz are tied at two games apiece in their second-round playoff series, meaning that Game 5 is vital to both sides. With the chance to take a 3-2 lead available to both sides, the Jazz will look to get back in the win column after two losses in Los Angeles while the Clippers look to get a third straight victory.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers struggled mightily in their first two games against the Utah Jazz, especially on the offensive end. But they flipped things around at home, thanks to some great shooting from Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Reggie Jackson. Unfortunately for the Clippers, Leonard will not be available for Game 5 due to a knee injury that he suffered late in Game 4 at the Staples Center.
Without Leonard, the pressure really shifts to George to propel the Clippers offensively. While he scored 31 points in each of the last two games for Los Angeles, George has struggled historically against the Jazz on the road, especially during the postseason. If he can shake those demons in Vivint Arena, the Clippers may still have a chance to win Game 5 and progress to the Western Conference Finals.
For the Utah Jazz, the injury to Leonard has to make them feel like they have a golden opportunity to get to the conference finals. But the Jazz still have to go out there and win Game 5 if they want to pull ahead of the Clippers, which means that they will have to step up defensively. After allowing 118 points on 46% shooting in Game 4, the perimeter defense of the Jazz will be put to the test once again.
The rotation of the Jazz will also be tested with the status of Mike Conley still being up in the air for Game 5. The starting point guard for Utah hasn’t seen the floor yet in this series, which has forced Sixth Man of the Year finalist Joe Ingles to assume a role in the starting lineup. Whether or not Conley plays can have a major impact on the depth of this team and could impact how much the struggling Georges Niang plays.
Utah had the best home record in the NBA during the regular season, posting a 31-5 mark at Vivint Arena. In the postseason, they have lost just once at home, with that loss coming off of a long layoff in their playoff opener against the Memphis Grizzlies. And with Leonard out, the Jazz are heavy favorites to extend their near-flawless track record at home.
The Pick: Jazz -7.5
Without Kawhi Leonard, the Jazz will be able to throw more bodies at Paul George and Reggie Jackson on the defensive end of the floor. Combine that with some improved shooting after returning home, and the Jazz should win this game convincingly en route to a 3-2 series lead.