The Utah Jazz should be the favorites to win this series regardless. Especially after its game one win without Rudy Gobert. The loss of its’ second-best player, or arguably their most valuable player, highlighted a strength of the Jazz that the Los Angeles Clippers lack.
This aspect is the bench play. It’s no secret that the Clippers have a thinner bench than the patience of their fan base. Old “Iso Joe” Johnson managed to outscore the entire Clipper bench on his own in Game 1. Although it wouldn’t be smart to bet on that happening again, the chances of the Jazz bench remaining superior in the scoring department throughout the series is almost certain.
The Jazz shook up their starting lineup at the end of the year. The reasoning behind the final starter and reserve decisions for the playoffs were made to expose the Clippers bench. Bringing Boris Diaw and Joe Ingles into the starting lineup leaves that unit with a bit less firepower. On the other hand, bringing Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood, and Shelvin Mack off the bench is a deadly weapon. Their bench lost Favors as he fills in for Gobert for the time being. It’s a nice luxury to be able to call a guy up into the starting lineup who has averaged 16 points and eight rebounds in the two seasons before this one.
Another reason the Jazz should be favorites is because of the trends each team has shown. The Clippers have been the most consistently underachieving team over the past few years. The Clippers always seem to win 50+ games a year. it also always finds a way to lose in the first or second round. A few of these years can, of course, be blamed on injury. But even a fully healthy Clippers team doesn’t seem in position to advance any further than previous years this season. Also, with talk of their core being “blown up” rising above a whisper, it seems as though they will trend their way right into that exact scenario.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Jazz. This team has everything going for them to advance past the first round. The current state of mind of all the players in the series is something rarely talked about, but is very crucial. The Clippers core group of players have been on the same ride for many years now. The Clippers have been dropped off at the same stop. This is the Jazz’ first trip together. While the Jazz are playing with no regrets, the Clippers are playing to keep its’ core together.
It is for all these reasons, trends, and mindsets that the Jazz have the upperhand in this series. Not only do they have the talent, but Utah has the superior bench. Utah is also in a better frame of mind to pull of an “upset”, even without Gobert. Now that all of this has been said and recorded, please Utah, don’t go out there and pull a Clippers against the inventors of that term, and make me look like an idiot.