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Facing the Music: Jazz to Perform Under Pressure

Utah on Brink of Elimination

The Los Angeles Clippers took a 3-2 series lead without Kawhi Leonard on Wednesday as they head home to face the Utah Jazz on Friday.

Bookmakers didn’t expect the Clippers to fare well without their star player, but Paul George put the team on his back and inspired his best playoff performance to date.

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz shoots over Terance Mann of the LA Clippers
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/AFP

Utah now needs to rebound on the road and its a narrow favorite in online sports betting markets.

Will the pressure be too much for the Jazz to handle?

George Rising to Occasion

George washed away any criticism that he can’t handle playoff pressure with a 37-point performance.

Without Leonard, who will likely miss the rest of the playoffs, all the pressure was on George to perform and he didn’t disappoint.

He shot 12 of 22 and 10 of 11 from the free throw line. It was his best playoff performance and he also had 16 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal for good measure.

“It was no secret. I knew I had to be big tonight and gotta be big going forward,” George told ESPN following the game. “Our season is alive because of his shouldering of all the work he’s done.

“We got to hold it together and continue to keep this boat afloat until he (Leonard) returns.”

George wasn’t without help as Marcus Morris Sr. had 25 points, Reggie Jackson scored 22 and Terance Mann chimed in with 13. George was the leader of the bunch, but without his teammates making key shots, the comeback wouldn’t have happened.

Los Angeles faced a five-point halftime deficit but entered the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead. It never looked back in the concluding stages as the Clippers handed the Jazz a rare home loss.

NBA betting markets have the Clippers as home underdogs, which is mostly because of Leonard’s injury having an effect sooner or later.

Mitchell Bothered By Injury

When All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell doesn’t have a big scoring night, the Utah Jazz struggle. It was the case on Wednesday when he scored just 21 points.

He was bothered by an ankle injury and he noticeably grimaced after several shots in the fourth quarter.

“It’s something I have to deal with,” Mitchell said. “It (expletive) sucks. I ain’t got nothing else to say. It’s tough when you’re trying things you normally do and you see spots you can get to, but you can’t. So, you gotta find a way to make it happen. It’s tough, but I gotta find a way otherwise I’m gonna be home.”

If Mitchell scores under 30 points in Game Six, the Jazz could be in trouble. Not having point guard Mike Conley due to injury was always going to have an impact and it’s starting to show. However, Mitchell has been superhuman and good enough to produce the goods under ultimate pressure.

It was good to see Bojan Bogdanovic step up with 32 points on Wednesday. Ruby Gobert also played a solid game with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, which included 10 rebounds but no blocks.

Defense was a bigger problem for Utah, which allowed the Clippers to shoot over 51 percent. It’s not often a team that makes 20 three-pointers and loses the game, so the Jazz will need to focus on defense and not allow the Clippers to get wide-open shots.

Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale struggled from behind the three-point line, so there is plenty of improvement to come in Game Six.

Utah has a good record in Los Angeles. It’s 9-3 against the spread in the last 12 meetings in LA, which is a good sign.

The Jazz are 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings and 6-1 ATS in the last seven overall. They have yet to lose in this series as a road favorite, which is a key betting statistic for bettors.

Another statistic in their favor is 6-2 in the last eight games as a favorite.

The Clippers are 5-1 ATS in the last six games as an underdog, but they are 1-5 ATS in the last six Conference Semifinals games.

Utah is 9-3 playing on one day of rest, so that’s a positive betting trend in the visitors’ favor.

The under is 7-1 in the Jazz’s last eight games as a favorite and 11-4 following a straight-up loss.

Clippers vs Jazz Pick

Things didn’t go to plan for the Jazz at home, but they get a chance to right the wrongs and play the full 48 minutes.

Mitchell was clearly hampered by a nagging ankle injury. If he’s healthy and ready to go, look for him to score 30-plus points.

He is the linchpin for the Jazz and their success is primarily based on how he plays. We’re confident he’ll return to his best form and help the Jazz force a Game Seven at home.

Pick: Utah Jazz -2

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