Jazz vs. Clippers Game 3 Betting Odds, Preview, and Pick
The Utah Jazz can almost taste it. Their path to the Conference Finals lies through an L.A. Clippers team they’ve already beaten twice, both times without Mike Conley. In large part, the Jazz’s success has been on the back of outstanding performances by Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, neither of whom L.A. has managed to make uncomfortable. If the Clippers keep letting the Jazz play their game, their championship dreams could functionally end on Saturday.
Sun, June 13 2021, 12:30 AM
Game 3 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC, and it's a must-win affair for the Clippers, who will need to dig deep to hold off the rampaging Jazz.
THE CLIPPERS GO ZONE
The first two games have been strange. The Clippers' rotations have been so scattershot you can’t be certain if there’s a good reason behind all the various lineup adjustments. But they may have found something in Game 2.
Initially, the Clippers elected to bench Nic Batum and start Ivica Zubac, signaling early that they believed their switching, five-out strategy had failed in the previous game.
But Mitchell scored eight points in the opening two minutes and 27 total in the first half, walking into buckets with ease right from the opening tip. He sent the Clippers into a panic.
L.A. shifted back to its small-ball lineup and dusted off Patrick Beverley. They began doubling Mitchell in an effort to stop the bleeding. But this was playing right into Utah’s hands. The stated goal of the Jazz offense is to get opposing defenses "in the blender," which means creating enough pressure at a vulnerable point that it forces a rotation, then that rotation forces another, and eventually, the scrambling defense concedes a wide-open shot.
When the Jazz lead ballooned to 20, Ty Lue countered with, of all things, a zone defense. It was a move that smelled of desperation. In most cases going zone against a team as good at perimeter shooting as the Jazz is suicide.
But a funny thing happened. The zone worked. It got Utah out of rhythm and keyed a big Clippers comeback.
Andy Larsen, a Jazz beat writer, reported that per Synergy L.A. played zone for 22 possessions and that Utah only scored on five of them.
It wasn’t enough in the end, but the Clippers’ zone did its job, even though the Jazz made a few effective on-the-fly adjustments. It’s hard to imagine the Jazz won’t be prepared for it when the Clippers try it again in Game 3, and I fully expect they will if they continue to struggle to contain Mitchell’s drives.
LINGERING INJURY QUESTIONS?
The Jazz have continued to frame Mike Conley’s injury as a mild hamstring strain. Is it possible that he’ll play in Game 3? Or will they continue their cautious approach?
James Harden re-aggravating his hamstring injury looms over any potential argument to bring Conley along more quickly. Per Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes: "Data shows the average time lost increases with each subsequent strain." In other words, if Conley returns too soon this time, it would likely be season-ending.
Utah rightfully sees themselves as legitimate contenders, so there is merit in taking the long view here. I do not expect Conley will not play in Game 3.
Mitchell also seemed to get hurt after Paul George careened into him during a play later in the fourth quarter. Mitchell missed significant time toward the end of the season with an ankle injury and was also held out of Game 1 against the Grizzlies. Though he denied any ill-effects during his post-game presser, it’s reasonable to think he might be hobbled entering Saturday’s contest as well.
SHOT QUALITY FAVORS L.A.
A lot of credit was given to the Jazz defense for their victory, and Rudy deserves a ton of credit for limiting the Clippers’ shots at the rim. However, L.A. is not a team that traditionally needs to attack the basket to sustain their offense. And down the stretch of the game, Kawhi was consistently getting to the middle and spraying passes to wide-open 3-point shooters. They just missed.
Per shotquality.com, based on the relative value of the shots taken in Game 2, the Clippers would typically be expected to have won by seven points. By that same metric, they would have won Game 1 by six.
A surface-level analysis may lead one to think the Clippers are cooked, but the numbers say they should be strong favorites to win Game 3 if these trends continue.
As everyone is fond of reminding you, no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. Expect L.A. to pull out all the stops, including ramping up Kawhi’s minutes to the absolute breaking point.
And as we saw in Game 3, the Jazz will continue to make Kawhi a playmaker rather than concede his attacks inside, and I expect his teammates to hit those shots at home.