Jazz vs. Clippers Game 6 Preview: Can Paul George Close the Series at Staples Center?

Paul George had a dominant performance in Game 5 and Raheem Palmer explains why he expects more of the same in a closeout Game 6.

Jazz vs. Clippers Game 6 Odds

Jazz Odds -1.5
Clippers Odds +1.5
Moneyline -124 / +106
Over/Under 220.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday and via BetMGM.

Through five games, this series has been a rollercoaster ride, so here’s a quick recap.

The Utah Jazz started off the series taking a 2-0 lead with Donovan Mitchell looking like the best player on the floor. The Los Angeles Clippers, for the second consecutive series, won back-to-back games to tie the series 2-2 and based on the results, it appeared they had the edge going forward.

And then the news hit that Kawhi Leonard would potentially miss the rest of the postseason with an ACL injury causing the line for Game 5 to jump from Jazz -2.5 to Jazz -7. Conventional wisdom said the Jazz would roll over the Clippers and have a chance at closing out the series on the road in Game 6.

But Paul George lived up to his “Playoff P” moniker with a dominant performance as the Clippers managed to overcome 20 made 3-pointers from the Jazz to take a commanding 3-2 lead in the series with a chance to close things out at home. Despite the road win, oddsmakers are still giving the Jazz plenty of respect as they opened as favorites on the road.

The Jazz have lost three straight games and are on the brink of elimination. Can they keep their season alive, or will the Clippers make their first appearance in the Western Conference finals?

Let’s analyze both sides and find out.

Are the Jazz Running Out of Answers?

The Jazz were carried by the heroic efforts of Mitchell who averaged 41 points per game in the first two games of this series.

If that held up for an entire series, the Jazz would be well on their way to the Western Conference finals. However, the combination of Mitchell’s ankle progressively worsening and the constant on-ball pressure from the Clippers in the backcourt has made Mike Conley’s absence more noticeable.

With the Jazz lacking another playmaker, Mitchell has been forced to do much more and it’s only fitting that his numbers would regress from the start of the series. Mitchell comes off his worst game of the entire post season as he scored just 21 points on 6-of-19 shooting, marking the second straight game in which he shot below 40% from the field.

Even more troubling for the Jazz is that they had a monster performance from behind the arc, making 20 3-pointers on the night. The Jazz started off the first half on fire, making 17-of-30 (56.7%) 3s but held just a five-point lead at halftime.

The Jazz went ice cold in the second half, shooting just 3-of-24 (12.5%) from behind the arc but variance is par for the course for a team that takes 45.3% of their field goal attempts from 3-point range.

The Jazz are starting to resemble the Houston Rockets from the previous five seasons who centered their offense around one star and were highly dependent on whether 3s were falling. When those shots aren’t falling for the Jazz, they’re in trouble.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Jazz aren’t a very deep team. Georges Niang and Derrick Favors haven’t provided much of anything off the bench, which means the Jazz essentially have six productive guys on this roster, many of whom have flaws.

Rudy Gobert has struggled to make a star level impact on both sides of the ball since the Clippers started playing their small-ball lineup. Jordan Clarkson may have won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, but he’s shooting just 38.4% for the series.

The Jazz were among one of the league’s best defenses in the regular season, allowing opposing teams to score just 107.5 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning the Glass. In this series, they have allowed the Clippers to put up Offensive Ratings of 142.0, 130.4 and 127.9 in each of the last three games.

Even with Leonard out in Game 5, the Jazz found no answers for slowing down the Clippers and if they don’t find some soon, their season could be over on Friday night.

The Clippers Have the Edge in Depth and Talent

Once upon a time in Indiana, George was going toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the postseason and there was no question about his talent or ability to perform as a star in this league.

His post-Pacers career has become a meme, plagued by postseason disappointments with the Oklahoma City Thunder and really took a hit in Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets last season.

George put any doubts about his status as a star to rest as he led the Clippers with 37 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in Game 5 without Leonard — his third 30-point performance in as many games. The Jazz have no answers for him on the wing with Bojan Bogdanović, Royce O’Neale and Joe Ingles struggling to contain him.

Even without Leonard, the Clippers’ advantage at the wings is an issue as Marcus Morris also scored a postseason career-high 25 points while shooting 3-of-4 from behind the arc. Reggie Jackson has been the unsung hero of this series as he comes off a game in which he scored 22 points.

The offense hasn’t skipped a beat in the absence of Leonard and with the Jazz struggling to defend this small-ball lineup, it’s tough to see anything changing in Game 6 at Staples Center. The Clippers were outscored by 12 points from the 3-point line and still won the game by eight points.

The Clippers are rewriting the narrative with every game. Once seen as weak team that folds under adversity, the Clippers have become a scrappy, gritty team that is resilient under any circumstance.

It also helps that Ty Lue has pushed all the right buttons, playing Terance Mann more minutes while limiting the minutes of Ivica Zubac and Rajon Rondo.

The Clippers’ ability to switch defensively has also caused problems for Gobert. He hasn’t been able to take advantage of this small-ball lineup, which means the Jazz are highly dependent on role players hitting 3s.

With the Clippers trapping and doubling Mitchell, his effectiveness over the course of this series has decreased as his ankle injury continues to limit him and unless Conley comes back it appears the Clippers have solved this version of the Jazz.

Jazz-Clippers Pick

This might be a surprising statement to some, but the Clippers are the better team even without Leonard. Mitchell was able to overcome his team’s flaws with superhuman performances in Games 1 and 2, but that version of him is gone as he continues to play through an ankle injury.

The Jazz are visibly struggling to match up with the small-ball lineup on both ends of the floor and have no answer for George or Jackson — I think the Clippers have the edge here.

From a numbers perspective, I think the market has over adjusted for the absence of Leonard. The line for Game 4 was Clippers -5 and yet this line currently sits at Clippers +2. Leonard is great but is he worth seven points to the spread? I’m not buying it.

I took the Clippers +2, but like them at their current price as well. They should win Game 6 and advance to their first Western Conference Finals.

Pick: Los Angeles Clippers +1.5

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