One of the craziest streaks in sports might be coming to an end.
The Los Angeles Clippers have been playing for 51 seasons and never have made a conference finals. Even bad teams catch a couple of good matchups in the first two rounds and get through to the NBA's final four once in a while. Not the Clippers.
The Clippers' path this postseason is very Clippers. They aren't making anything easy on themselves. Los Angeles has gone down 0-2 in both of their series so far. Through NBA history, more than 93 percent of teams that are down 0-2 lose the series. The Clippers came back to beat the Dallas Mavericks, and might be pulling the same magic trick against the Utah Jazz.
The Clippers' wins in Games 3 and 4 were statements. The Clippers won by 26 in Game 3 and Game 4 was just as lopsided, even though the final margin was just 14 points. The first two games look different in retrospect; the Jazz played very well at home in both games and barely won both. When the series shifted to L.A., the Clippers took over. It's fair to say the Clippers have been the better team this series.
Yet, the market isn't convinced. The Clippers are still +110 underdogs to win the series at BetMGM. They're +275 to win the West, behind the Phoenix Suns and Jazz. Yet, it felt during the final two games like maybe this is finally the Clippers' time.
Clippers have been inconsistent
The weird part about the Clippers falling behind 0-2 in both series is everyone knows they are one of the more talented teams in the NBA.
The Clippers are a team that believes in load management for its stars, so it's not a team that will chase a top seed in the West. That could backfire if Game 7 happens in Utah, but the Clippers feel like it's worth the risk to make sure stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are ready for the playoffs.
That also should mean the Clippers are hitting their stride in the playoffs. That hasn't really been the case. The Mavericks are a thin team after Luka Doncic, and Dallas took the Clippers to seven games with three wins in Los Angeles. The Clippers were up and down in each game in Utah and dropped both. There are times the Clippers look like a legitimate championship contender — their ceiling was on full display the past two games against the Jazz — but it's hard to know which Clippers team will show up.
After decades of bad basketball and heartbreak, like blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in last year's conference semifinals, Clippers fans won't complain about a squad that looks like a championship team only once in a while. Though bettors will be frustrated by it.
Don't count out Jazz yet
There's a reason the Jazz are still favorites in this series, of course.
Utah was 52-20 in the regular season. They didn't just stumble upon the No. 1 seed in the West. The Jazz can out-shoot anyone in the playoffs if they're hot from behind the 3-point line. It's a good offensive team, and if Mike Conley can return from injury it adds another weapon. Even if Conley doesn't come back, the Jazz still have a tough home-court advantage, and the Clippers haven't won there in this series. Utah is very tough at home and its fans will be going crazy. It won't be easy, no matter how the Clippers dominated the two games at Staples Center. The Jazz are -2.5 favorites for Game 5.
This could still be a series that comes down to seven games. If the Clippers win, it would make some history. Their fans have been waiting a couple of generations for it.
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