In game 1 of what might be the best playoff series in the first round, the Utah Jazz will try to steal home court advantage away from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Expectations: Both teams finished with the exact same record, at home and away. For the Clippers, this feels like the Last Chance Saloon, which means they need to finally make a conference finals, hoping it’s enough to keep Chris Paul and Blake Griffin around. An early playoff exit might mean the two are leaving, and Doc Rivers gets fired, or loses some of his power.
Stars: The Jazz have one player, offensively, rising above the rest, which is Gordon Hayward. The face of Butler’s NCAA run in 2010 is an All-Star level player in 2017, averaging 21.9 points per game, and on his way to get a big payday this offseason, whether with the Jazz or somewhere else. Blake Griffin is the top scorer for the Clippers with 21.6 points a night, and his ability to be versatile, which isn’t a given each night, might be more important than Chris Paul’s playmaking skills.
Hired help: The Jazz, for the first time in years, have a long list of players to carry the load. From Rudy Gobert who could win the DPOY, to George Hill, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors (who is holding this team back in some ways), Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson. Deep, but without flair. DeAndre Jordan is the defensive anchor for the Clippers, followed by J.J. Redick, Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford providing firepower outside the team’s big 2.
Prediction: In our bigger playoff post we had the Jazz winning this series in 7. A good way to start it would be a win in game 1. Smart thinking right? Despite the Clippers dominating the regular season series, I think the Jazz will be able to slow the game down and turn it into their brand of basketball. Close games aren’t something the Clippers handle very well during April.