Tonight we’ll see the Utah Jazz (2-2) and the Los Angeles Clippers (2-2) get at it again. Game 5 is as good a predictor for series success as Game 1 seems to be in the first round of the West playoffs. So this game is a must win for both teams in this evened up series. Chris Paul is doing his work and Utah can’t slow him down. Thanks to injuries clearing themselves up a little, the Jazz bench attack of Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood, and Derrick Favors are finally getting a chance to play together. And overall, we’re seeing a great series with close games - as two evenly matched squads fight for glory.
It’s what the NBA Playoffs are all about.
The X-Factor appears to be injuries at this point. And both teams had to battle that all season long. It’s been no different in the post-season as well, unfortunately. So what’s up?
- PG: —
- SG: Alec Burks is out of the rotation, so maybe the PRP treatment in his left knee is more PR spin than anything else. It seems just like a really fishy time of the season to have that done.
- SF: Gordon Hayward had to leave Game 4 early with a bad case of food poisoning but that was a few days ago, and we are certain that his ORT or IVF treatment took care of his resulting dehydration. No minutes restriction for him, he’ll start and be good to go.
- PF: Joel Bolomboy is likely to be selected as a fellow Inactive for this game, along with Burks.
- C: Rudy Gobert is back and has no minutes restriction. He had a double double in short work in Game 4, he looks to do more in Game 5.
Only Alec is out for “injury” and the Jazz two best players are back in the starting line-up. That’s great news for a team that was never really healthy before.
Los Angeles Clippers:
- PG: Austin Rivers, the combo guard who missed all of the playoffs so far, will be back. He is under a minutes restriction, somewhere between 12 to 20 minutes for Game 5. That may be as much as he needs to play.
- SG: —
- SF: —
- PF: Blake Griffin is out for the rest of the playoffs, he sustained a right toe injury in Game 3 in the second quarter. In his place Marreese Speights has started and taken more minutes. Paul Pierce and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute have also played small-ball four against Joe Johnson as a consequence.
- C: Diamond Stone is out with a left knee injury, and we’re not likely to see him play even if he was healthy.
Not having Griffin is a huge deal. But DeAndre Jordan is holding things down in the paint. Having Rivers return is also a huge deal, as he helps out on both sides of the court and at multiple positions.
For more in Rivers we turn to our buds over at Clipsnation:
2017 NBA Playoffs Injury Update: Austin Rivers Will Return for Clippers-Jazz Game 5 https://t.co/yNwWtPmUTY— Clips Nation (@ClipsNationSBN) April 24, 2017
Lucas Hann writes:
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Austin Rivers plans to return for game 5 of the Clippers’ first-round series against the Utah Jazz. Rivers, who is recovering from a hamstring strain, missed the final two weeks of the regular season and all four of the Clippers’ games in the NBA Playoffs.
Rivers was a big part of the Clippers’ rotation this season, averaging 12 points, 2.8 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 0.7 steals in 27.8 minutes per game while shooting 44.2% from the field, 37.1% from deep, and 69.1% from the foul line—career highs in every category. The 24-year-old son of Clippers coach Doc Rivers is the only player in the Clippers’ rotation under 25 years old.
The Clippers have turned to Rivers throughout the season as a key option at multiple positions. He has started games at point guard in place of Chris Paul, at shooting guard in place of J.J. Redick, and at small forward when Blake Griffin was injured and Luc Mbah a Moute slid to the power forward position. Rivers’ positional versatility defensively and his ability to play both on and off the ball offensively have made him an ideal flex play for Doc Rivers throughout the season.
In his much-anticipated return, Rivers will provide the Clippers with another option in a few different areas where they have struggled early in the series. With both J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford struggling (though Crawford broke out in a spectacular game 4 performance), Rivers is L.A.’s best defensive option at shooting guard, and a more aggressive option attacking the rim than either of his counterparts. Redick is scoring just 7.8 points per game in this series on 34.5% shooting from the field and 26.7% from deep, while turning the ball over 2.5 times per game. Crawford was shooting 32.4% from the field and was 0-11 from beyond the arc before a breakout game 4 that saw him shoot 9-13 from the field and 5-7 from deep to score 25 points off of the bench.
Check out his full post that goes into even more detail! Missing Austin was a big blow to them, and I think a guy coming back from missing the last 10 games his team played (last suited up on March 29th) may be a little out of condition. But as Doc Rivers likes to point out, he could just be an emotional boost for them. Snark aside, his shot may or may not be there after being out for so long. But his energy level and versatility will be a boon on defense.
And that’s something Hann points out - he can be used at PG through SF on defense. Which means Rivers could be used as another defensive look for Gordon Hayward, which allows Mbah a Moute to cover Joe Johnson. That could be useful in this Game 5 for sure, if we are still counting on Doc to make adjustments.
Rivers is going to come off the bench, and I don’t know if Rodney Hood can check him. Of course, I do think Dante Exum could . . . but I’m a crazy person who thinks Dante is better for this team going forward than Shelvin Mack. Quin Snyder may disagree.
Having Rivers back makes LAC tougher to beat. They aren’t at full strength, but they are strong enough to make life very unpleasant for a visiting team. Austin played in all four regular season games against Utah this season and had some good games.
- Game 1: 19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 threes, 1 assist in 29 minutes
- Game 2: 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 threes, 3 assists in 32 minutes
- Game 3: 15 points, 2 threes, 2 assists in 25 minutes
- Game 4: 11 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist in 24 minutes
Making fun of Austin is something we do, but I think he has finally caught up to some of his potential and turned it into on-court production. His ability to hit spot up threes or off the bounce threes means you cannot go under the screen or leave him open. If you close out too hard he can drive and use his athletic ability to finish, dish, or get to the line. He’s not that strong, but he is quick and smart and that makes him hard to beat on defense. Or if you are lazy, he can make you regret being so.
I think he’ll be more than just an emotional boost for his team going forward. And especially tonight at home the Clippers will finally have their glue guy back. He was huge this season for them and a part of some of their most useful line-ups. He can play with our without Chris Paul.
And I think he could be a handful tonight.
Utah is less injured. LA is in circle the wagons mode. It should be another close game.