The second round of the Western Conference NBA playoffs is set to begin on Monday, and two of the teams still vying for an NBA Finals appearance — the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns — will face off at 10:00 p.m. in a Game 1 of the semifinals. The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers are also in the picture, and we broke down what squad looks like the best bet to make it out of the West ahead of the action.
2021 Western Conference Champion odds
Utah Jazz +120
Los Angeles Clippers +200
Phoenix Suns +280
Denver Nuggets +900
Utah is the odds-on favorite but doesn’t seem like the best option despite its three-game winning streak against the Memphis Grizzlies. Donovan Mitchell isn’t quite back from the ankle sprain that caused him to miss more than a month of the season, and Mike Conley is dealing with a tweaked hamstring. The Jazz’s top-two offensive weapons will have to be in good shape to get past the Clippers, and both will likely be less than 100%.
Los Angeles is fresh off a thrilling, seven-game series against the Dallas Mavericks. Serge Ibaka has missed four consecutive games with a back injury, but his return could make the Clippers even more lethal in a field of teams that lack depth at center. Los Angeles has lost two of its three games against Utah this season, but the average margin of victory between the Clippers and Jazz was 5 points when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard played. Both stars are healthy now and could feast against an opposing team that’s top two creators are banged up. They seem like the best bet at this point.
Phoenix seems to be the second-best bet after staving off the Los Angeles Lakers in round 1. Chris Paul’s lingering shoulder injury is a concern, but Devin Booker’s encouraging scoring paired with DeAndre Ayton’s rebounding and consistent role-player production, makes them scary. The Nuggets had a tiring, six-game series against the Portland Trail Balzers in the first round and will now face a much stiffer defense.
Denver isn’t very intriguing as a long shot with Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers, and Mante Morris making up the frontcourt rotation. Every other contender has an All-Star guard. While Jokic is no slouch and was dominant against the Suns during the regular season, the likelihood of him taking down three teams with multiple All-Stars are slim.
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