The NBA playoffs continue with a fun series between the #1 Utah Jazz and the #4 LA Clippers battling in the Western Conference semifinals. The Jazz secured the best record in the NBA this season to lock up the #1 seed in the West. The Clippers are trying to ignore a self-imposed curse that prevents them from advancing beyond the West semifinals.

NBA Playoffs Series Utah Jazz LA Clippers Curse Mike Conley Donovan Spida Mitchell
Utah Jazz backcourt players — Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley — discuss strategy during a 2020 game in Utah. (Image: Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

The Jazz locked up their opening-round series against the #8 Memphis Grizzlies in only five games. They lost Game 1 without Donovan “Spida” Mitchell, who was a late-scratch because the Jazz were being extra cautious about his ankle injury. Mitchell returned to the lineup in Game 2, helping the Jazz rattle off four straight wins to advance to the West semifinals.

The Clippers avoided a first-round bust out when they won back-to-back eliminations and rallied from down 3-2 to defeat Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

2021 NBA Playoffs – Series Odds
#4 LA Clippers (47-25) vs. #1 Utah Jazz (52-20)
LA Clippers +112 Utah Jazz -139

 

LA Clippers vs. Utah Jazz – Series Score
Jazz Win 4-0 +1000
Jazz Win 4-1 +450
Jazz Win 4-2 +500
Jazz Win 4-3 +450
Clippers Win 4-0 +1100
Clippers Win 4-1 +650
Clippers Win 4-2 +450
Clippers Win 4-3 +550

The top-seeded Jazz are -139 odds favorites to win the series, while Kawhi and the Clippers are a slight underdog at +112 odds to defeat the Jazz and advance to the Western Conference finals.

Betting the Jazz and Clippers: Zig-zag?

DraftKings posted a series score prop bet for every matchup in the NBA playoffs. The Jazz and Clippers series has interesting numbers, which reveal that oddsmakers and bettors don’t really have a firm grasp on a clear-cut favorite. Out of eight possible outcomes, six of them have odds clustered between +450 and +650. As expected, both of the potential sweeps have the longest odds, but there are three scenarios that each pay +450 odds, including the Jazz winning in five games, the Jazz winning in seven games, and the Clippers winning in six games.

This year’s postseason featured a lot of blowouts. The Clippers were the only first-round winner to play a full seven-game series. There weren’t any zig-zag patterns in this postseason where teams alternated wins until Game 7. The series score odds indicate that oddsmakers could see a potential zig-zag series between the Clippers and Jazz.

Jazz point guard Mike Conley exited midway through the second quarter of Game 5 of the Grizzlies game. Conley didn’t return due to tightness in his hamstring, but the Jazz closed out the series anyway without their veteran floor general. Conley will miss Game 1 against the Clippers. He’s listed for questionable for Game 2 on Thursday.

The Jazz are the second-highest team on the NBA futures board at +325 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship over at DraftKings. The Clippers are the third-highest at +500 odds. A few prognosticators suggested that the winner of the Jazz and Clippers series will end up in the NBA Finals. The Jazz are +130 odds to win the Western Conference, while the Clippers are +200 odds to finally win their first-ever conference championship.

Fading the ‘Clippers curse’

The Clippers have never won the NBA championship because they never advance to the NBA Finals. The Clippers have never played in the NBA Finals because they never won the Western Conference finals. They never won the Western Conference finals because they never appeared in them. Let that sink in. The Clippers have never advanced beyond the West semifinals because that’s as far as they get before being knocked out.

Call it tough luck or an outright hex, but there’s something to be said about the Clippers curse. Doc Rivers, who won an NBA title with the Celtics, thought he could reverse the curse but, even though he had several teams loaded with talent and a deep bench, the Clippers could never get over the playoff hump. They were eliminated by a first-round upset or picked off in the West semifinals.

When the Clippers were down 3-2 against the Mavs, whispers of the curse swirled around Hollywood. Sports hexes are more of a psychological wedge to torment fans, but if the notion gets into the heads of players and coaches, then a franchise is doomed.

The Clippers had been the laughingstock of the NBA for several decades. They were the bottom feeders of the league and a doormat for elite teams in the Pacific division like the LA Lakers. The Lakers are currently on their vacation with their championship reign officially over. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the team are still alive with a chance to squash the curse once and for all.

Utah Jazz: Spida sniffles, Conley’s hammy

The Jazz won every game this postseason in which Spida Mitchell played. Mitchell averaged 28.5 points and 5.8 assists per game against the Grizzlies, including back-to-back games with 30 points to close out the series. Mitchell also shot 40% from 3-point range and 90% from the free-throw line.

“Spida improved every single year since he’s got here and obviously having him back was key and was huge for us because of the way we’re playing now,” said teammate Rudy Gobert.

The sprained ankle that sidelined Mitchell didn’t faze him at all in the playoffs. However, seasonal allergies have been problematic.

“These allergies have been kicking my butt, probably the worst I have ever had,” admitted Mitchell after Game 5.

Sounds like Spida’s agent needs to get him an endorsement deal with Big Pharma to help out the Jazz’s leading scorer.

The Jazz are fortunate because they have depth in the guard position, which means they can pivot if Conley (hamstring) misses additional games this series. Quin Snyder utilized a guard-heavy lineup this season with deadly long-range snipers, including Mitchell, Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and Joe Ingles. Clarkson won the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, while Ingles filled in for Mitchell and started in Game 1.

The Jazz shot 40.6% from 3-point land against the Grizzlies. Conley was super-hot from downtown, connecting on 54.3% of his shots from beyond the arc. Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down 43.3% of his treys.

Check out more 2021 NBA Playoffs coverage.

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