The NBA Playoffs are back! It’s been a long NBA season that has been dominated by MVP discussion and players resting. NBA fans everywhere are just excited for the focus to be directed where it should be — on good old-fashion playoff hoops!

The Utah Jazz – Los Angeles Clippers series is one of the most intriguing first-round match-ups that we have this year. It features a young, hungry Jazz team looking to knock off a Clippers team with a lot on the line.

The Clippers notched another 50-win season this year, marking their fifth year in a row they have reached that plateau (a franchise record). The Blake Griffin/Chris Paul era has been the best in franchise history, but they have still left people salivating for more. After five straight playoff appearances, this team has still never made it past the second round.

Griffin and Paul are both expected to opt-out of their contracts and become free agents this coming summer. If the Clippers lose this series, there will be a lot of questions that need to be answered in the summer. Do they keep Griffin and Paul? Should they fire Doc Rivers? All those questions can be kept on hold if they win this series though.

The Clippers are coming into the playoffs red-hot, winning eleven of their last thirteen games. The Clippers were top four in offensive rating led by the dynamic play-making of Chris Paul. The Clippers carved up the top defenses in the NBA this season, scoring 109.1 points per game, and had an impressive 21-12 record against those teams.

The Jazz surprised many people this season with an impressive 51-31 record — an eleven game jump from last year. Gordon Hayward made his first All-Star appearance and Rudy Gobert validated the max contract he received in the summer with his excellent play. They are coming into this series hungry after being away from postseason basketball for four years. Utah is the stingiest defensive in the league, allowing only 96.8 points per game (best in the league), and have the third best defensive rating in the league at 102.7. They will look to slow down the game, and win the series in the half-court.

The Clippers won the season series against the Jazz three to one. The Jazz missed at least one starter in all four games, and that was a big factor in the dominance of the season series. The Jazz struggled to score in this series, being held to under 80 points in two of the games. Expect more low scoring games from Utah in this upcoming playoff series, but also from the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Jazz will be at full strength, so expect for their defense to be excellent as always. Hayward is going to have a big series, and prove that he is worth the max contract he will be seeking in free agency. This will be an extremely close series, but expect the Utah Jazz to pull through.

Series Prediction: Jazz in 7

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