Saturday features Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The Jazz have won each of the first two games in this series, and the series now shifts to LA for Game 3. Teams with a 2-0 series lead have historically advanced at an extremely high clip, winning approximately 93.5% of seven-game series during the NBA postseason. That said, the Clippers have already come back from one 0-2 deficit so far this season. The Clippers are listed as five-point favorites in Game 3, so they’re in a good spot to potentially cut into that deficit.
The Jazz have also managed to win the first two games despite not having Mike Conley in either contest. He’s been out due to a hamstring injury that he sustained in the first round, and he’s currently listed as questionable for Game 3.
Conley has been an important part of the Jazz’s rotation all season. They’ve increased their Net Rating by +11.9 points per 100 possessions with Conley on the court during the regular season, which put him in the 97th percentile in terms of on-court impact (per Cleaning the Glass). The Jazz’s bench has been severely compromised with Conley out of the lineup, with Jordan Clarkson scoring all of their bench points in Game 2.
Conley returning to the lineup would be an important development, so make sure to monitor his status using the Labs Insiders tool.
The Clippers also made the decision to officially shut down Serge Ibaka for the remainder of the postseason. He was expected to be a key addition for this squad, but he’s been limited to just 41 games due to injuries. He also logged just 18 total minutes in the first round before being shut down.
This series features a clear big three in the stud department. Kawhi Leonard is the most expensive player on the slate, but his production has been a bit disappointing. He posted a -3.66 Plus/Minus in Game 2, and he’s scored 38.75 DraftKings points or less in each of his first two contests. He scored at least 55.0 DraftKings points in six of seven games vs. the Mavericks, so the Jazz have had his number to start the series.
That said, Leonard is too good to continue to struggle. He’s been slightly below-average from the field, but the bigger issue has been foul trouble. He’s currently projected for 40.4 minutes in our NBA Models, so expect him to see a few more minutes on Saturday as long as he can avoid some early fouls.
Donovan Mitchell has blossomed into a full-fledged superstar during the postseason. He’s upped his usage rate, posting a mark of at least 40.5% in four of his past five games, and that has unsurprisingly had a major impact on his fantasy value. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in each of his past five games, and he’s scored at least 48.25 DraftKings points in each of his past four.
However, the Clippers did make an adjustment with Mitchell in the second half. They switched to a zone defense, and that seemed to confuse Mitchell and the rest of the Jazz’s offense. He shot just 4-13 over that time frame after shooting 11-16 in the first half. That allowed them to come back from a massive deficit before the Jazz ultimately pulled away again late. It remains to be seen if they can have sustained success using a zone defense, but it’s something to monitor moving forward. Mitchell has also seen an aggressive price increase since the start of the series, which makes Leonard my preferred target of the duo.
Paul George is another possible option. He’s been very reliable to start the postseason, posting a positive Plus/Minus in eight of his first nine games. He hasn’t always had the most reliable shooting performances either, which makes him a safe bet to return value. On nights where his shot is falling, he has the potential to hang with Leonard and Mitchell from a fantasy perspective at a cheaper price tag.
Rudy Gobert put on a masterclass of how to dominate a basketball game without scoring in Game 2. He finished with 13 points, 20 rebounds, three blocks and two steals, and the Jazz were ultimately +14 with Gobert on the floor. He racked up 48.0 DraftKings points, and he should continue to thrive against the undersized Clippers. They did move Ivica Zubac back into the starting lineup in Game 2, but he ultimately finished with just 13.8 minutes. DeMarcus Cousins added 11.2 minutes off the bench, but he was extremely ineffective. He didn’t play in the second half, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he didn’t play in Game 3.
Conley is next up on the pricing spectrum, but he’s going to be tough to trust even if he is active. He will likely have his minutes monitored, so I’m fine with fading him. That said, he would carry minimal ownership, and he did score at least 49.0 DraftKings points in his first three playoff games.
Jordan Clarkson is coming off an excellent performance in Game 2, which means I’m not going to be rostering him in Game 3. Not only is he more expensive, but he’s also due for some shooting regression after going 9-of-15 from the field and 6–of-9 from 3-point range.
Reggie Jackson turned into Steph Curry for a brief period in the second half, and he hit a 3-pointer to give the Clippers their only lead of the game. His big offensive night resulted in a massive spike in playing time, going from 17 minutes in Game 1 to 36.1 minutes in Game 2. He responded with 37.25 DraftKings points, making him one of the better values on the slate. He’s currently projected for 32.4 minutes in our NBA Models, and his $10,000 salary on FanDuel comes with a Bargain Rating of 92%.
Bojan Bogdanovic is an interesting buy-low option for the Jazz. He attempted just eight shot attempts in his last game after launching 14 in his previous two. He’s going to be on the floor for plenty of minutes in this series – he’s played at least 38 minutes in each of the first two contests – so expect him to get a few more shots up in Game 3.
Joe Ingles is one of the most underrated players in basketball. He was dominant in Game 3, and the Jazz were ultimately +24 with Ingles on the court. He also rewarded fantasy owners with 33.0 DraftKings points, which was easily his highest mark of the postseason. He’s definitely in play if Conley is out once again, but Ingles could be a smidge overpriced if he moves back to the bench. He’s played 28.0 minutes or less in four postseason games with Conley and Mitchell in the lineup, and he’s scored 15.75 DraftKings points or fewer in three of them.
Royce O’Neale rounds out this price range, and he’s coming off a team-high 40.4 minutes in Game 2. Unfortunately, he’s a better real-life player than fantasy player. Most of his impact comes on the defensive end of the court, as he typically draws the assignment of guarding the other team’s best player. He’s still capable of providing some fantasy value in that role, but his ceiling is on the lower side.
Values & Punts
This is where these contests are often won. Everyone knows you need to play guys like Leonard and Mitchell, which is why those players typically command astronomical ownership. That means finding the right value plays is what’s going to separate the winning lineups from the losing lineups.
Let’s break down some of my favorite players in this range, rapid-fire style:
- Marcus Morris ($4,800 on DraftKings, $10,000 on FanDuel): Morris stands out as a nice value on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 95%. He finished with 27.0 DraftKings points in Game 2 despite shooting just 4-11 from the field and 0-5 from 3-point range. He has the potential for a better performance on Saturday.
- Nicolas Batum ($4,200 on DraftKings, $10,500 on FanDuel): Batum is an even better value than Morris given his Bargain Rating of 98%. He moved back to the bench in Game 2, but he still finished with 20.75 DraftKings points over 27.5 minutes.
- Ivica Zubac ($3,400 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel): Zubac’s spot in the Clippers’ rotation is far from secure. He was targeted heavily by Mitchell in Game 2, who shot at will when he dropped underneath screens in coverage. That said, the zone coverage should help him – he played more in the second half than he did in the first – and Zubac has nice upside at this price tag if he can stay on the floor.
- Luke Kennard ($3,000 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Kennard played just 10 minutes in Game 2 after logging 29.3 minutes in Game 1. He unsurprisingly had very different fantasy outcomes in those contests, but I think his Game 2 performance is closer to what we can expect on Saturday.
- Derrick Favors ($1,800 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Favors gets the backup center minutes for the Jazz, and he can provide some fantasy value in that role. He finished with -0.50 DraftKings points in Game 2, but he racked up 17.0 DraftKings points in Game 1.
- Patrick Beverley ($1,600 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Beverley is my favorite punt on today’s slate. He saw 20 minutes in Game 2, and the Clippers could decide they need his defensive presence on the court.
- DeMarcus Cousins ($1,400 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Do you feel lucky, punk? If you do, Cousins could be worth a flyer. There’s a chance he plays in this contest – he saw 10 minutes in the first half of Game 2 – and if he does, he should return value at $1,400. There’s also a chance he doesn’t play at all. I think the latter is the more likely scenario, but he does rate highly in our NBA Models at the moment.