Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#653 Los Angeles Clippers vs.
#654 Utah Jazz
Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 10:00pm EDT
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City
Written by Jordy

The Los Angeles Clippers will try to avoid digging a 2-0 hole for a second consecutive series in Thursday’s Game 2 matchup with the Utah Jazz. Things didn’t go well for the Clippers in their first playoff venture into the Vivint Smart Home Arena. A game-winning block by three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert secured a 112-109 victory for the Jazz in the series opener. We’ll see if they can stand their ground against a vengeful Clippers team in the rematch.

“Playoff P” has to show up

I said in a previous breakdown that “Playoff P” actually stands for “Playoff Please Show Up.”

Well, Paul George didn’t show up against the Jazz in Game 1. I don’t want to hear about him scoring 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, either. The fact remains that he shot 23.5 percent from the floor and got cooked to well-done in his defensive effort to slow down Donovan Mitchell. On the biggest stage in professional basketball, George continued to come up short.

Granted, the Vivint Smart Home Arena isn’t an easy place to win games at for visiting teams. That place will chew you up and spit you out at the snap of a finger. Speaking of snapping, Mitchell snapped his finger like Thanos in the opener, and George’s defensive effort just disappeared.

That can’t happen on Thursday.

Kawhi Leonard left his championship team in Toronto to come to Los Angeles and build another winning team with George. He didn’t come all of this way to get left on an island as the team’s only superstar. So George needs to step up on both ends of the floor. This isn’t the first series they’ve faced a special player on the other team. They just knocked off the Dallas Mavericks with Luka Doncic wrecking games.

They can do the same to Mitchell and the Jazz.

The Clippers are still a top-10 defensive team with one of the top-five best players in the world in Leonard. If George steps up, this is an entirely different series.

Gobert’s block set the tone for the series

Rudy Gobert reached out like Mr. Fantastic to slap away any hope the Clippers had of winning Game 1. It was the block heard around the world. It’s the block that has set the tone for the entire playoff series.

The Jazz were the more physical basketball team on defense, and Donovan Mitchell played like he was the best player on the floor, period. Utah’s star guard went off for 45 points, which helped him tie legendary Jazz star Karl Malone’s franchise record with four 40-plus scoring performances in the postseason.

Good luck stopping the Jazz when Mitchell is that hot from the floor.

But it wasn’t just Mitchell. Gobert also stepped up defensively on a night when the Jazz didn’t have their best shooting performance. So an argument could be made that the Clippers haven’t even seen the best version of Utah yet. What happens when Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic start heating up as well?

It’s only a matter of time.

The Jazz are the No. 4-ranked team in the league defensively, and their ability to take their game to another level at home is terrifying for any would-be opponents, especially the Clippers. Paul George looked shook in Game 1, and it’ll fall on the Jazz to keep the nightmare going in the rematch. They need to make Kawhi Leonard the NBA’s version of Jack Shephard.

Mike Conley (hamstring) is still questionable to play in this game.

Keep him stuck on an island for as long as possible.

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The Clippers aren’t dead yet.

They have a strong tendency of responding well to adversity. The problem comes in sustaining that level of excellence they suddenly put on display when the entire world is talking about them in a negative light.

Paul George is taking in everything being said about him, and he’ll show up on Thursday night and shove those criticisms back in people’s faces.

That’s what he does.

It should be noted that the Clippers are the No. 4-ranked scoring defense in the league, and they actually did a great job of slowing down the Jazz’s offense. If not for an otherworldly performance from Donovan Mitchell, we could be talking about the Clippers being up 1-0 in the series. Despite George’s sluggish start, the team was still in a good position to pull off an upset.

This will be a nail-biter of a series that goes down to the wire, and the Clippers are bound to steal a game in Utah at some point or another. Why not on the heels of an embarrassing defeat?

“Playoff P” will show up in this one. I’m laying the points and taking the Clippers.

Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers (+3)

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Now that the Game 1 jitters are out of the way, things can open up a bit more offensively for both teams in this matchup. The Jazz are averaging 117.9 points per game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena this season. They didn’t have their best shooting night in the opener, and I’m expecting a better outing offensively from some of the guys around Donovan Mitchell like Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson. The team is also hoping to have Mike Conley (questionable) back for this one. Meanwhile, this is Paul George’s moment for redemption after an ugly opening performance. He’ll respond emphatically and give Kawhi Leonard the help he desperately needs in this series. Give me the over in this one.

Prediction: Over (221.5)
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast, and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY, and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys, and all the Sun Drop you can drink.