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Clippers vs. Jazz, 2017 NBA playoffs: Schedule, scores, predictions, and news

Utah advances with Game 7 victory.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Of all eight first-round matchups in the playoff picture, none harder to call than the No. 4 vs. No. 5 showdown between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz.

After years of disappointment underscored by last year’s post-season cut short due to injury, the Clippers look to prove they can hang with the top teams out west. With a healthy Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Los Angeles feels it’s a contender in their conference’s stacked top half. DeAndre Jordan is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate once again, manning the middle for a Clippers team deeper than it’s ever been.

An emerging Jazz team won’t make their odds any easier. Gordon Hayward earned his first All-Star appearance in a career year in Utah this season. The Jazz added battle-tested veterans in Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw to the roster, and they signed George Hill, who has had the best season of his career, albeit in limited playing time. And as good as Jordan has been defensively, Rudy Gobert has taken the reins as the league’s menacing interior presence, with the DPOY award likely in tow.

The Clippers could virtually lose everything they’ve built in this series if they fall to a wet-behind-the-ears Jazz team making its first playoff appearance since the Deron Williams era. A loss for Utah could be equally as damaging, though, as Hayward becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and could jet town at a whim.

Key Matchup: Rudy Gobert vs. DeAndre Jordan

Jordan probably looks at Gobert and sees a younger, more spry version of himself. But even the Clippers center wasn’t this good this early.

Gobert is arguably the most valuable big man in the NBA. His impact defensively is irreplaceable, but his rolling on screens contracts defenses and gives freedom to Utah’s steady half-court offense. It’s on Jordan to negate the Frenchman’s influence on the series.

As is it Gobert’s job to help neutralize Jordan’s ability to clean the glass. The Jazz center averages 12.8 rebounds, yet Jordan has him beat by a board per game. DJ also has 20 pounds on Gobert and will use some of that strength to keep him off the glass.

Neither are traditional, back-to-the-basket scoring bigs, but their impact on offense—and on each other—will be key to their respective teams’ success in the first round.

Series Schedule

Game 1: Jazz 97, Clippers 95 (recap)

Game 2: Clippers 99, Jazz 91 (recap)

Game 3: Clippers 111, Jazz 106 (recap)

Game 4: Jazz 105, Clippers 98 (recap)

Game 5: Jazz 96, Clippers 92 (recap)

Game 6: Clippers 98, Jazz 93 (recap)

Game 7: Jazz 104, Clippers 91 (recap)

*if necessary

Predictions

SB Nation’s Clippers vs. Jazz Predictions

STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
Paul Flannery Clippers 7 Chris Paul
Mike Prada Clippers 7 Chris Paul
Tom Ziller Clippers 7 Chris Paul
Whitney Medworth Clippers 6 Chris Paul
Kristian Winfield Clippers 6 Chris Paul
Tim Cato Jazz 7 Rudy Gobert
Zito Madu Clippers 7 Gordon Hayward
Clips Nation Clippers 5 Blake Griffin
SLC Dunk Jazz 7 Rudy Gobert