Jazz vs. Clippers Preview: Why Kawhi Leonard and LA Are the Right Side

Kenny Ducey breaks down his best bet for Monday's NBA matchup between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

Jazz vs. Clippers Odds

Jazz Odds +3
Clippers Odds -3
Over/Under 223
Time 10:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Utah Jazz have staved off a mini three-game losing streak to return to form with two impressive wins on a back-to-back. Now they’ll faced a difficult test in the Clippers, who seem to be figuring things out once again.

Is LA really a deserving favorite here? Let’s see what the numbers say below.

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Can the Jazz Survive Without Their Floor General?

The Jazz have to be feeling confident about their chances here after wiping out the Suns and a very tough Trail Blazers side on back-to-back nights this weekend. They now sit at 12-6, perched atop the Western Conference ahead of those two aforementioned teams, which sit in second and third, respectively.

Utah is also in a familiar spot on Monday as the underdog. The top team out West has been an underdog in 13 of its 18 games, going 11-2 against the spread in these situations and 10-3 straight up. The Jazz are also 7-2 against the spread as road underdogs and 6-3 straight up.

The bottom line is that there’s been a clear scenario where you want to bet the Jazz. After all, they’re 1-4 ATS as favorites, but they have both covered and cashed the moneyline in most of their games as underdogs as well.

However, there is some bad news here for Utah. Mike Conley was injured in the win over Portland after playing just nine minutes and may miss up to two weeks. While it didn’t wind up costing the Jazz that game, thanks to Jordan Clarkson’s one-man show down the stretch, it remains to be seen if they can continue to maintain this level of play without their leader.

His absence seemingly hasn’t impacted them all that much during the season as Utah is around four points per 100 possessions better when Conley is off the floor, but the sample size is still too small to make any significant judgments.

Can Kawhi Give the Clippers a Boost Without PG13?

The Clippers are dealing with injury issues of their own. Paul George was rested for the second half of their blowout win over the Spurs due to knee soreness, and while it seemed like things were totally fine after the game, he is listed as questionable for this tilt. Should he miss this one, he’d join Luke Kennard on the sideline, who is another critical piece to this team.

Luckily, LA has Kawhi Leonard back. While he’s played sparingly — never eclipsing the 25-minute mark in a game this season — the Clippers are 3-1 in the four games he’s played, with the lone loss coming to the mighty Phoenix Suns.

That’s all well and good, but those three opponents they’ve toppled are the Lakers, Pistons and Spurs. They covered the spread in two of those three games, but like the Conley splits above, we simply don’t have enough data yet to say just how much better the Clippers are with Leonard just off of those results alone.

With that said, four of their five best two-man lineups involve the two-time Finals MVP, and in the 65 minutes they’ve played together, Leonard and George have a Net Rating of 28.8. His biggest impact has clearly been on the defensive end, and the Clippers have a 92.2 Defensive Rating in the 89 minutes Leonard has played, versus a 107.8 without him.

Jazz-Clippers Pick

While the Jazz have a better Net Rating without Conley on the floor, the defense has been around 10 points better per 100 possessions, but the offense has been 5.3 points worse per 100 possessions.

I realize betting on the Clippers doesn’t sound like a great idea given they’re laying points against the best team in the West and have their own injury concerns. However, it’s clear that they have more depth than the Jazz and are able to withstand missing players.

LA also led Utah for a good bit the first time these two sides met this season before the Jazz pulled away late and won by eight.

I think this is a more even matchup than we’d anticipate now that Conley is out, and Leonard is in. I’m going to continue cautiously buying low on the Clippers in the early days of Leonard as oddsmakers have favored the correct side.

Pick: Clippers -3 (-110)