The Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers are tied, 2-2, in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Jazz are back at home to play a Game 5 before heading to Los Angeles for Game 6. Here are three things that could have a major impact on the way things unfold Wednesday night.
Kawhi Leonard is out
The news broke Wednesday morning that Leonard suffered a knee injury in Game 4 and would be out indefinitely. While the severity of the knee injury is unclear (some reporting the injury as a sprain and some reporting that there is fear Leonard suffered an ACL injury), what is clear is that the Clippers will be moving on without Leonard.
Though playing against a Kawhi-less Clippers team does have the appearance of making things easier for the Jazz, the biggest mistake the Jazz could make would be to relax.
The Clippers still have plenty of weapons on their roster, including seven-time All-Star Paul George and a host of role players that are capable of going off and have already gained confidence in this series — Nicolas Batum, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris just to name a few.
This series is not over and the Jazz need to play like Leonard is still out there.
Derrick Favors’ minutes
Rudy Gobert played just over 31 minutes in Game 4. In the minutes that Derrick Favors played in place of Gobert, the Clippers were unstoppable.
Favors was great in the first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies and he had an exceptional Game 1 against the Clippers, but Los Angeles has figured out ways to make him more or less invisible on the defensive end.
What Quin Snyder decides to do with the non-Gobert minutes could be the deciding move in this series. He could extend Gobert’s playing time and choose to go with a small-ball lineup to match what the Clippers do when Gobert is not on the floor, he could choose to continue with his current rotation or he could do a combination of all these options.
Keeping home-court advantage
Winning Game 5 not only would give the Jazz a 3-2 lead in this series, but it would allow them to keep the home-court advantage they worked all season to achieve, which could very well come into play if this series goes to seven games.
The last thing the Jazz want to do is give the home-court advantage to the Clippers, who could then close out the series in Los Angeles on Friday.
This is the most important game for the Jazz so far in these playoffs.
Game 5 between the Jazz and Clippers tips off at Vivint Arena at 8 p.m. MDT on Wednesday on TNT.