All of the pressure is back on the Utah Jazz in Wednesday’s anticipated return to the Vivint Smart Home Arena for Game 5 of their playoff series with the Los Angeles Clippers. After dropping consecutive lopsided losses on the road, the Jazz are in desperate need of a spark performance to avoid a potential closeout game in Los Angeles. They’ve only lost five times at home throughout the regular season.
Leonard is the best on the floorAll of the momentum has swung back in the Clippers’ favor after handling their business and winning back-to-back games on the road. They didn’t just beat the Jazz in those games.
They beat them down.
All of the praise being heaped on Donovan Mitchell must have awoken the monster sleeping within Kawhi Leonard. The man was an absolute assassin on the floor, happily destroying the Jazz without a hint of emotion on his face. Utah should be very, very scared right now.
Who wouldn’t be when the guy laughs like this?
Leonard is clearly the best player on the floor in this series, and that has to continue to be the case on Wednesday night. Yes, Mitchell is a superstar. I’m not walking back from that after his scintillating performances early in the series.
But Leonard is on par with LeBron James and Kevin Durant when he’s locked in. He’s that good.
So it hurts even more for the Clippers to learn they could be without him for the rest of the series. The two-time NBA Finals MVP suffered a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for Game 5, via ESPN's Adam Schefter on Wednesday.
The Clippers have scored 118-plus points against the Jazz in the last two games. Their ability to pile on the scoreboard is a big reason for their success. It has been nothing short of impressive coming against a Jazz team that ranks fourth in the league in defensive efficiency. The key in Los Angeles has been Paul George’s uptick in offensive production. “Playoff P” has scored 31 points in consecutive games.
But can he keep it going?
George can look like a superstar or slightly above average at best. That swing of extremes has plagued him throughout his entire career. Whatever version of George we see in Game 5 will decide this game without Leonard on the floor.
(edit: Kawhi Leonard will miss the game and series with a knee injury).
Home can make the difference for the JazzHome court advantage might actually save the Jazz in this series.
The Clippers might have evened things up, but if they have any hope of advancing, they still have to steal at least one game in Utah.
And that hasn’t been easy to do for anyone.
The Jazz are the best home team in basketball with only five losses at the Vivint Smart Home Arena this season. The Memphis Grizzlies stole Game 1 of the opening playoff series against them, but Donovan Mitchell didn’t play in that game.
Utah has to make a homestand against the Clippers. A good start would be avoiding the large early deficits that give the Clippers a chance to be frontrunnners. All that does is take pressure off Paul George and other players to knock down shots.
The Jazz have to be better on both ends of the floor to at least keep the game competitive in the first half.
They are arguably the best two-way team in basketball. Even with the Clippers being so talented, there are no excuses for the Jazz getting blown out in back-to-back games. One of the shocking stat lines is the fact that they’re losing on the boards. Rudy Gobert has to take over the game down low and remind people why the Jazz were the No. 3-ranked rebounding team throughout the regular season. This is the time for them to show some toughness and Mitchell to really give the Clippers something to laugh about.
My mother used to say the latter to me before spankings. So the Jazz need to come into this game with that same energy.
Mike Conley is listed as questionable for this game. So the Jazz could potentially be at full strength against a Clippers team playing without Kawhi Leonard.
- Jazz are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 playoff games as a favorite.
- Jazz are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games as a home favorite.
- Jazz are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 home games against a team with a winning road record.
- Jazz are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 home games.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Clippers are 4-10 ATS in their last 14 Conference Semifinals games.
- Clippers are 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 games following a straight up win of more than 10 points.
- Clippers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games as a road underdog.
- Clippers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games against a team with a winning % above .600.