NBA Wednesday betting preview: Jazz will take charge with Leonard shelved

Adam Pantozzi / National Basketball Association / Getty

Can the 76ers and Jazz take control of their respective series as big home favorites? That's the question hanging over Wednesday's NBA slate, which features two series tied at 2-2 ahead of a crucial Game 5.

Here are our best bets for both games.

Hawks @ 76ers (-6.5, 224)

In some ways, the 76ers have dominated this series. Their two wins have come by a combined 32 points; their losses were by a combined seven points, with Monday's defeat obscuring a 17-point lead in the first half.

The reason the Hawks came back - and why bettors should bank on the 'dogs here - is Joel Embiid, who is playing through a meniscus tear in his embattled right knee. He didn't look right in Game 4 when he shot 0-for-12 in the second half and sounded dejected after the game about his hampered state.

Atlanta took advantage in the second half, and I'd expect Nate McMillan's group to attack Embiid early and often in Game 5 - assuming the big man can even take the court for an extended period. The Sixers might still be a tick better even without a healthy Embiid, but not 6.5 points better.

Pick: Hawks +6.5

Clippers @ Jazz (-7, 221)

Who are the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard? We haven't seen this version of Los Angeles in exactly a month, when they lost to the Thunder as eight-point favorites. That was the team's ninth loss in 20 games without Leonard, posting a 7-12-1 record against the spread with a minus-1.1 scoring differential.

L.A. is still coming off two dominant wins over the Jazz entering Game 5, though Leonard played a key role in both victories, scoring a combined 65 points across those contests. His absence leaves the Clippers with one fewer defender to slow Donovan Mitchell and allows Utah to key on running mate Paul George without needing to double or trap Leonard.

The Jazz are a remarkable 35-6 straight up at home this season and boast a 26-15 ATS record, tied for the seventh-best mark by any team in the last 10 seasons. Expect them to take control of this series on their home court against a good (but weakened) Clippers squad.

Pick: Jazz -7

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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NBA Wednesday betting preview: Jazz will take charge with Leonard shelved
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