In what will be a make-or-break situation, the Los Angeles Clippers take on the up and up Utah Jazz in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs starting Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

What’s at stake?

For Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, this playoff run could be their final go-around as a team with Paul and Griffin expected to test the free-agency waters this offseason.

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There are also rumors that head coach Doc Rivers will be vacating the Clips’ head coaching job for the same role with the Orlando Magic this summer. In short, Los Angeles would have to overcome all odds and win it all in June for its core to stick around for more years.

Despite loading up their roster with All-Stars the last five years, the Clippers are still underachievers in their right, never reaching the Western Conference finals in all those years.

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They were in a position to reach the West Finals two years ago, but they blew a commanding 3-1 lead to the Houston Rockets in their conference semis series.

This year, the no.4 seed Clippers will be facing a younger and more dynamic Jazz team that features a handful of promising players such as Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles. This young core is stabilized by a collection of savvy veterans like George Hill, Boris Diaw, and Joe Johnson, who are ready to step up in pressure-packed moments.

For the Jazz, beating the Clippers in the first round would mark the first playoff series win since 2010, when Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and head coach Jerry Sloan were still running the show at Salt Lake.

Players to Watch:

Clippers: All eyes will be on CP3 starting on Saturday. The All-Star point guard averaged 18.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, stirring the Clippers to a home-court advantage in the first round.

His playing time dropped four minutes below his career minutes per game (35.5), but everybody expects him to play more minutes in the coming games since the Clippers heavily depend on his playmaking skills.

Jazz: Utah possesses two-headed monsters on both ends of the floor. Rudy Gobert has blossomed into arguably the best rim protector in the league right now, swatting 2.6 blocks per game and helping the Jazz from NBA’s best defense at 96.8 points allowed per game. On the other end of the end, Hayward is Utah’s main cog as he averaged a team-high 21.9 points per game.

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Prediction:

The Jazz and Clippers split their four regular-season series, making their series a little harder to predict. However, the Jazz appears to have the edge in this playoff match-up because of their depth. Again, the Clippers are relying too much on their Big 3. Outside Jamal Crawford, their bench Clips’ bench is non-existing. This problem could cost Clippers a lot in this series with the Jazz if this goes down to a seven-game series.

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Jazz win in seven games.

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