The NBA Playoffs have been marred by injuries and just about every series here in the second round has been impacted. The series between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers has been just as impacted as any. Donovan Mitchell is not 100% and Kawhi Leonard is out as we head into Game 6, where the Clippers can finish off the Jazz and limp into the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns will be rooting for Utah on Friday, as the more days that pass with Chris Paul under isolation, the better off Phoenix is going to be. Utah is a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 219.5 at Bet Us Sportsbook to force a decisive Game 7 on Sunday. Will we be rooting for the Jazz alongside the Suns or are the Clippers going to end this series?
The Jazz blew a golden opportunity on their home floor in Game 5. With a five-point lead going into halftime, Utah completely collapsed in the third quarter. We’ve seen the teams trade off bad first and bad third quarters in this series. It was Utah’s turn, getting outscored 32-18 on the third period and the Clippers coasted to an eight-point win.
Utah was 6-of-22 in the third quarter and missed all 10 three-point shots. They scored six twos and six free throws in the period, a quarter that saw Donovan Mitchell score one measly point over nine minutes of action. Mitchell had 11 in the fourth quarter, but that was also on 10 field goal attempts and four trips to the line.
It is pretty clear that Mitchell, who was 6-of-19 in the game for just 21 points, is not healthy and is trying to do too much. Without a huge 32-point effort from Bojan Bogdanovic, Game 5 would not have even been close. The Jazz had six players with at least 12 points, but Mitchell had a bad game and the team fired up 54 three-pointers instead of attacking the basket.
Now they’re on the brink of elimination and we have to wonder how healthy Mitchell is and what the mindset of the Jazz is going to be. They’ve lost three in a row now in this series after taking a 2-0 lead. They weren’t even competitive in the first two games at the Staples Center. Now they’ll be there with the season on the line.
Los Angeles Clippers
There is something to be said about the Superstar Subtraction Theory. There is this idea that everybody does a little bit more when a star player gets sidelined. Just about everybody did more for the Clippers in the absence of Kawhi Leonard for Game 5. Leonard reportedly told his teammates that he knew something was wrong right after Game 4 and everybody had the chance to realize the gravity of the situation.
Rather than pout, the Clippers went out and got huge games from Paul George, Marcus Morris, and Reggie Jackson, as that trio combined for 84 of the Clippers’ 119 points. George played over 40 solid minutes with 16 rebounds to go with his 37 points. Jackson stayed out of foul trouble and had 22. Morris, who has been the unsung hero of the series, had 25.
The starters made up for a rather lame effort from the Clippers bench, as Luke Kennard and Patrick Beverley did virtually nothing in 37 combined minutes of action. Head coach Tyronn Lue put it on his starting five and they delivered. That was especially true of Morris coming out of halftime with 12 points in the third quarter. He set the tone and the team followed his lead.
The question now is whether or not the Clippers can keep up the intensity and that next man up mindset. The Jazz will be better prepared for what the Clippers are doing during life without Kawhi. It’s also fair to wonder if we get 10-of-16 from Marcus Morris again and also get another full game of Jackson without the foul trouble.
Jazz vs. Clippers Free Pick
Utah is up against it now, but at least the Jazz know what to do in terms of adjusting to what the Clippers are planning to do without Kawhi. There is an element of the unknown in terms of how a team will adjust to life without a star. For the Jazz, now they know. They also probably won’t settle for 54 threes again and we just got Mitchell’s worst game of the series. It feels like we’ll get a Game 7 here, one that makes the Phoenix Suns very happy.
Pick: Utah Jazz