We haven’t had a lot of bad beats in the NBA Playoffs. After all, the team that has won the game has also covered the spread 47 of 50 times in this year’s postseason. One of the times it didn’t happen was Game 1 between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz.
What looked like a safe cover wound up not being one, as the Clippers lost 112-109 with a late rally to give some bettors a push and other bettors a win, as the line closed -3 across most of the market. Because most bettors had the Clippers at +3.5, they caught a winner, even though the Clippers lost the game outright.
Let’s see what Game 2 has in store, as the line sits at 3 across the market, including Bookmaker Sportsbook, with a total of 221.5. In that respect, not much has changed from Game 1 to Game 2.
Los Angeles Clippers
Game 1 was weird. The Clippers got out to a 25-18 start and led 60-47 at the Break, but it was a tie game going to the fourth quarter. The Jazz made the necessary halftime adjustments and the Clippers rested on their laurels. Head coach Tyronn Lue has been questioned a lot during this postseason for the way that he has handled things and maybe it’s fair to question why the Clippers came out so flat for the second half.
It sure feels like a lost opportunity to steal Game 1 in Salt Lake City. On the other hand, Paul George was 4-of-17 from the field, yet managed 20 points thanks to nine free throws. Kawhi Leonard only had 23 points and only played 36 minutes after carrying a heavy workload in the first round. Reggie Jackson was limited to 17 minutes because of foul trouble, as he eventually fouled out.
The Clippers shot 38% from three, but only made 20 two-point shots in 43 attempts. Jackson’s foul trouble and a weak effort from Nicolas Batum pushed Rajon Rondo and Luke Kennard into a lot more minutes than expected. Kennard was highly effective with 18 points in 29 minutes off the bench and he led the team in three-pointers with four.
It was just a strange game all the way around for the Clippers. It was an off night for Kawhi and PG, as the duo combined to go 4-of-12 from three and the bench had to pick up the slack.
A lot of bettors are looking at Game 1 in that way. The Clippers were this bad and only lost by three. It has to mean better fortunes for Game 2, right?
Well, we can look at it another way, too. How often do we expect the Jazz to trail by 13 at halftime? Utah was clearly the better team in the second half, outscoring the Clippers 65-49. Sure, it took an enormous effort from Donovan Mitchell, who scored 45 points on 16-of-30 shooting, but a lot of Jazz players had off nights from the floor.
Jordan Clarkson fired up 14 threes, which is probably not the game plan from Utah, but he did make six of them. Otherwise, Bogdan Bogdanovic had 18 points. Rudy Gobert had 10 and only four of those came somewhere other than the free throw line. Utah was only 34% from three, despite Clarkson’s barrage and a nice shooting performance from Mitchell.
It really was a strange game for both sides. Utah couldn’t buy a bucket in the first quarter, but didn’t get frustrated or flustered and relied on the best player in Mitchell to carry them through. You’d have to think he gets a little bit more help in Game 2.
It was also a bit of a tough spot for the Jazz that Mike Conley was announced out shortly before the game. That made for some shuffling with the starting lineup and it was clear that Conley’s veteran presence was missed. Joe Ingles led the team with seven assists, but he couldn’t make a shot to save his life.
I don’t think we found out much about either team or how this series might play out in Game 1. A lot of crazy things happened that I wouldn’t expect to see happen again in Game 2. It’s almost like handicapping from scratch in a lot of ways.
Clippers vs. Jazz Free Pick
There are a lot of ways in which we can look at Game 1. The Clippers started fast after Utah started slow. The Jazz started hot for the second half and Los Angeles faltered. Utah will probably shoot better in Game 2. Kawhi and PG will probably play better, too. To me, that lends itself towards the over. The game was played to a fairly slow pace and still got to 221 points with some subpar shooting efforts from some key scorers. We also saw both teams struggle more than expected to move the ball. That should change with some adjustments.
Pick: Over 221.5