The LA Clippers advanced to the second round after a thrilling seven game series against the Dallas Mavericks, closing things out with a win on their home floor.
Awaiting them is the Utah Jazz, who have earned some rest after taking care of the Memphis Grizzlies in five games.
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Game 1 - Tuesday, June 8, 10:00 p.m ET
Game 2 - Thursday, June 10, 10:00 p.m. ET
Game 3 - Saturday, June 12, 8:30 p.m. ET
Game 4 - Monday, June 14, TBD
Game 5 (if necessary) - TBD
Game 6 (if necessary) - TBD
Game 7 (if necessary) - TBD
Result: Jazz won 2-1
Best game: Feb. 20, 2021 - Clippers, 116, Jazz 112
Best performance: Donovan Mitchell (Feb. 20, 2021) - 35 points, (12-27 FG, 4-11 3PT, 7-9 FT), five assists, four rebounds, and three steals.
Outside of one blowout Jazz win against an understrength Clippers side missing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Nic Batum, and Luke Kennard in February, the other two games of the regular season were decided by an average margin of five points, with each team winning one apiece.
Their last game in the regular season brought the playoff atmosphere with the Clippers holding off the Jazz's late rally to snap their nine-game win streak, behind 29 points from Kawhi Leonard.
After the Clippers led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, the Jazz got to within two points as Donovan Mitchell emptied the clip, scoring 29 of his 35 points in the second half.
That win was just the Clippers' fourth victory over the Jazz in their previous 13 meetings.
Earlier in the season, the Jazz won 106-100 behind a monster night from Mike Conley Jr., who kocked down seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 33 points. The Jazz point guard enters this series under an injury cloud after picking up a hamstring strain in Game 5 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
He will be re-evaluated before Game 1 and figures to play a big part in the series against the Clippers after a strong showing in the first round, averaging 17.4 points. 8.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds on 46 percent shooting and scorching 54 percent from the 3-point line.
Key Storyline: How will the Clippers play Rudy Gobert?
The Jazz's biggest advantage over the Clippers is at the center position, with Ivica Zubac to start on the Defensive Player of the Year Finalist.
Serge Ibaka remains sidelined with back spasms, while DeMarcus Cousins presents another solution for the Clippers if they want to match his size in the paint.
In three games against the Clippers this season, Gobert was dominant, averaging 14.3 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks on 58.6 percent from the field - including a monstrous 23-point, 20-rebound performance against the Clippers in February.
Guarding the lethal pick-and-roll with Gobert as the roll-man is going to be a tough task for the Clippers, who will have to cut off the Jazz's guards if they want to keep the big man out of the paint.
The Clippers looked at their best in the first round against the Mavericks with their smaller lineup, which featured Marcus Morris and Nic Batum instead of Zubac, but that strategy is going to be tough to pull off against the Jazz, with so many of their offenseve sets coming out of the pick-and-roll with Gobert.
Defensively, Gobert presents an even bigger problem with his presence at the rim likley to force the Clippers into taking a lot of shots from mid-range. Thanfully, for LA, the likes of Leonard and George can make them pay if they're knocking down jumpers, taking Gobert out of the game.
The chess match between coaches Ty Lue and Quin Snyder is going to be fun.
Three Players to watch
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Mitchell has shown he is ready for the big stage, taking huge strides in last season's palyoffs, but this series against the Clippers is poised to be the most important of his career.
Now an All-Star and the Jazz's clear primary offensive weapon, it's no surprise, they won four straight after he returend to the lineup after missing Game 1 against the Grizzlies.
His ability to create his own shot down the stretch of close games will be key against the Clippers with Leonard a proven playoff closer on the other side.
Royce O'Neale, Utah Jazz
O'Neale was tremendous on both sides of the floor against the Grizzlies and his main focus in the second round will be sticking Kawhi Leonard.
The Clippers star has been playing at an elite level this playoffs, averaging 32.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.3 steals on 61.2 percent shooting and 42.5 percent from the 3-point line and while O'Neale will serve as the primary defender, it will take a team effort on switches and at the rim to keep Leonard quiet.
For O'Neale, striking the balance between aggressively defending without fouling will be the key against a player who is elite at drawing contact.
Paul George, LA Clippers
George was solid in the first rond against the Mavericks, averaging 23.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists.
He will be up against playoff nemesis Joe Ingles, who has had success in previous years slowing him down, with there sure to be no shortage of trash talk and fireworks betten the pair.
George shot just 30.6 percent from deep against the Mavericks and against a Jazz team that can pile up threes in a hurry, he'll need to be dialled in from deep.
Meanwhile, the Clippers were one of the best teams guarding the 3-point line in the regular season, holding oponents to 35.6 percent. George's work on the defensive end, containing their shooters will be a big factor.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Clippers in 7
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): Jazz in 7
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