NBA betting: Elimination looms with LA Clippers up against it on the road at the Utah Jazz

Saturday night is elimination night – potentially – for the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and LA Clippers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

And while Atlanta and Chicago hold decent chances of forcing a Game 7 on their own courts against the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics, the Clips have to do it the hard way – on the road – at the Utah Jazz.

With Rudy Gobert returning, and Blake Griffin watching despairingly from the bench, Utah’s 96-92 victory in midweek put them on the brink of an upset that’s never really felt like a surprise.

Their defence, especially with the Frenchman in the paint, has held LA to under 100 points in all but one of the six contests to date, typical of the league’s top rated defence.

But it has been Joe Johnson who has injected a little va-va-voom into a usually under-powered offense by bringing 18.2 points off the bench and proving irresistible in the fourth quarter.

It’s negated the best that Chris Paul can do. Even so, no game has been decided by more than eight points so far so it could pay off to take the Clippers at +4.5 at 2.15.

Best bet: Go over 194.5 total points in Utah – Los Angeles at 2.12



Semi stage set

Two Conference semi-finals get under way on Monday and one could be an almighty tussle.

It’s a Texas two-step when San Antonio host the Houston Rockets for Game 1 with the Spurs winning the last three meetings between these two rivals in taking the regular season series 3-1.

Kawhi Leonard – outstanding as his team ground out a 4-2 close against Memphis in the first round – averaged 28.5 points and 5 rebounds in the previous clashes, enough to help the Spurs overcome a 29 points, 11.8 assists and 9 rebounds contribution from James Harden.

That promises to be a decisive duel although with the best of a number of match-ups, San Antonio – still good value for the West at 5.50 – is rightly favoured to advance with a 4-2 victory a solid tip.

The reigning champions Cleveland welcome the Toronto Raptors for Game 1 and although Canada’s finest did well to defeat their own inconsistencies to push out Milwaukee, they should be no challenger for the Cavs who are well-rested following their sweep of Indiana.

The Raps’ only triumph over Cleveland came at the end of the regular season in a game where LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all sat out. It was 4-2 Cavaliers in last season’s East Finals. It could be even shorter in the rematch.