They beat the L.A. Clippers and the NBA odds in Game 1, but the Utah Jazz will find it difficult to do the same this Thursday in Game 2.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
Thursday. June 10, 2021 – 10:00 p.m. EDT at Vivint Smart Home Arena
The Utah Jazz are the best team in the NBA. That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? But anything can happen in this pandemic season; the Jazz (52-20 SU, 41-31 ATS) entered the playoffs with the league’s top overall seed, and they haven’t stopped yet, eliminating the Memphis Grizzlies in five games and taking a 1-0 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers (47-25 SU, 39-32-1 ATS) in their second-round series. Tell that to the bettors, though. Utah (+290) remain second favorites behind the Brooklyn Nets (+120) on the NBA title futures at bet365, with the Clippers tied for third at +750. Apparently the Jazz are still carrying some small-market value into Thursday’s Game 2. But do they have enough value for our NBA picks as 3-point home faves at SBK?
I’m not convinced. As well as Utah have performed this year, they lost one of their key players when point guard Mike Conley strained his tender right hamstring during their last game versus Memphis. Conley’s status for Game 2 remains a mystery at press time, although it seems likely he’ll sit out given the fact that NBA lines are available for Thursday’s matchup. The Jazz have two other quality guards in Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson, but neither plays defense very well, and Utah needed 45 points from Mitchell to beat L.A. 112-109 in Monday’s opener, just barely clearing the bar as 2.5-point home faves.
The Jazz also needed Paul George to shoot 4-for-17 from the floor, including 1-for-9 from inside the arc. We’ve all seen George have his struggles in postseasons past; this year has been better, thanks to the extra spacing provided by 3-and-D maestro Nic Batum, but George and the Clippers were even stronger when Serge Ibaka (back) was in the lineup. He’s officially doubtful for Game 2 after not traveling with the team to Salt Lake City.
Simple regression to the mean makes Mitchell a candidate to score fewer points on Thursday, and George to score more. Everything else about Game 1 was standard – both teams shot reasonably well on those high-variance threes – so as long as Conley remains on the sidelines, the Clippers should have a better chance of beating the NBA odds in Game 2. This is definitely a situation where you’ll want to wait for the morning shoot-around to see whether Conley is fit to play. If he is, maybe the Under will have some legs; BetMGM have the total at 221.5 points, down slightly from 222 in the opener. But without Conley, the Clippers are a viable bounce-back candidate for Game 2.
NBA Pick: Clippers +3 (–108) at SBK