The Utah Jazz prevailed against the Los Angeles Clippers in Seven hard games. The Jazz were the harder, tougher team that the Clippers broke against. And really, LA did break in this series. No, I’m not talking about Glass titan Blake Griffin going out again. I’m talking about mentally breaking. The turn overs in Game 7, the lack of points from their superstar, it was a game where one team knew they were going to win it from the start. And that team was the one on the road.
Utah is going to face the Golden State Warriors in Round 2, and LA is going to face tough questions in the mirror. But before we get there, let’s go over the series:
Game 1: UTA 97 - LAC 95 (recap)
Rudy Gobert goes down in the first play of the game, Derrick Favors gets in foul trouble, Jeff Withey is taking out of mothballs . . . and the Jazz do enough to earn a hard fought win against a determined Clippers club. Joe Johnson turns back the clock and does whenever he wants on offense, while his team helps him out on the other end. Chris Paul gets a lot of love from the refs, but he gets the home court loss.
Game 2: LAC 99 - UTA 91 (recap)
[No Jazz highlights recap somehow]
This was their “big emotional revenge win” . . . a 6 point game that turns to 8 at the final because of intentional fouls. This is when and where I felt like LAC wasn’t “for real.”
Utah didn’t get the push they needed to get over the top, but it was a two possession game for almost all of the game. You think that’s how a Jerry Sloan team would have handled a Game 1 loss at home? Yeah, going back to Utah 1-1 was the goal when everyone was healthy. Almost making it 2-0 without Rudy was the writing on the wall for Ballmer’s team.
Game 3: LAC 111 - UTA 106 (recap)
[No Jazz highlights recap somehow again!]
This was the first, and only, time LAC would get out of the 90s on the Jazz. G-Time went Miller Time and dropped 40 in this loss, the team’s third straight game without Rudy. Thankfully Raul Neto came back meaning less time for Shelvin Mack. (Small victories) But the big problem here was the cumulative fatigue for Derrick Favors, who played 38 minutes in this game. It was one of his worst games ever in terms of production but you gotta give him a break. Quin Snyder didn’t as Jeff Withey, Trey Lyles, and Joel Bolomboy all got DNP-CDs in this one.
LAC had a 27.3 ORB% in this game and dominated the paint. This was the game right here beyond the heroics of Hayward, or George Hill who almost had 30. And this happened with Blake Griffin leaving the game in the second quarter. I feel like the Jazz should have won this game, and would have regretted it had they not won the series.
Game 4: UTA 105 - LAC 98 (recap)
Gobert returns. Utah takes care of business on the glass. They own the paint, easy win going away. Flying back to LA tied 2-2 - piece of cake, right?
Game 5: UTA 96 - LAC 92 (recap)
Another close, hard fought game that Utah somehow won with Hill going 1/7 from three, Joe Ingles going 0/4 from three, and overall the wing group that makes above .400 going below it. Three wins now on the series and two in LA. Flying back to Utah this should be interesting - to say the least.
Gordon dropped another 27 in this game, Favors went back to the bench, Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood combined for 30 as reserves. Man, Dante Exum even played an adversarial role on defense.
Game 6: LAC 98 - UTA 93 (recap)
[No Jazz highlights recap, I guess it took me to the second round of the playoffs to figure this out]
This was a disappointing loss. Utah had a chance to end it, but did not. They shot even worse in Game 6 than they did in Game 5. They gave up a lot of offensive rebounds. Chris Paul was actually running as a point guard and finding open guys, like Austin Rivers and others who made their open threes.
LA looked like a better team in this game, with their backs to the wall. Utah looked like a team that knew that they had one more chance to win it. They probably would have had Gobert not turned his ankle in the 3rd quarter and had to leave the game again.
Game 7: UTA 104 - LAC 91 (recap)
Utah rips their heart out, go up by 20+ in the third, coast to the victory. Boom beaches.
So in seven games LA scored over 100 points just once. That’s defense to #TakeNote of, if you ask me. Even more impressive the Jazz got it done without their defensive anchor for the most part. The pace was 88.9 possessions per game, and the Jazz had 111.2 ORTG / 110.0 DRTG. That’s not stellar, but they did it by shooting .542 eFG%, not being sloppy with the ball .111 TOV%, and by getting to the line at a higher rate than the other team .223 FT/FGA. The one factor of the four factors they didn’t win was ORB%, but hey, you can’t do that if you’re a) making most of your shots and b) Gobert is always in foul trouble.
Gordon Hayward had a food poisoning game, 3 points 2 rebounds, but still averaged 23.7 / 7.1 / 2.9 / 0.7 / 0.3 while shooting .469 / .447 / .956. He continues to approach that highest tier of scoring wing play. Hayward scored his career high 40 points in this series.
George Hill was solid and there every game, while he only shot .393 from three he was effective by averaging 16.9 / 4.1 / 3.7 / 0.3 and over a three made a game.
Joe Johnson is in hero mode right now and contributed two of his biggest playoff performances in his career at the evergreen age of 35. He had that game winner in game one and was huge in Utah was well. He’s not just a scorer but also helped out on the boards and found guys for scores: 15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.7 spg, and many one-on-one daggers.
Rodney Hood didn’t have the best shooting series of his career (.373 / .343 / .688) but still averaged 10.4 ppg, and he grabbed 2.6 rpg as well.
Derrick Favors was the second bench hero for this team besides Johnson, and he averaged 10.0 ppg (.620), 6.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.0 spg, and 0.6 bpg. He did everything he was asked to and more.
Joe Ingles started and completely shut down J.J. Redick, and when Redick wasn’t in the game he had to guard Chris Paul. AND if that’s not enough, he had to be the ball handler (had a career high 11 assists in one game) and stretch the floor. His shot wasn’t there the entire time, but he still averaged 6.6 / 3.9 / 4.0 / 2.0 / 0.6 in this series. That’s like a mini-AK.
Boris Diaw was another starter who did his job. He passed the ball, conducted things, and even made threes when he was forced to shoot. His numbers were small, 6.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.7 spg, but his confidence late in games were big.
Rudy Gobert was held back by injury and conspiracy. He will emerge yet.
Raul Neto, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack, and Jeff Withey were warm bodies who did what they do. Neto played defense and hit threes. Mack drove and took shots. Withey blocked shots and fouled bigmen saving points. Exum was ridiculously underused. Trey Lyles, Alec Burks, and Joel Bolomboy all did not play in the first round.
Hey, remember these pieces by our homies over at Clips Nation?
2017 NBA Playoffs: Clips Nation Staff Picks for the Clippers vs Jazz First Round Series https://t.co/yBrCvw4TuV— Clips Nation (@ClipsNationSBN) April 14, 2017
I didn’t forget. On April 14th the Clips Nation staff released their series predictions. The TL;DR version is that they were all wrong, so so wrong. Seven of their twelve contribs (for real? twelve?) predicted that it would be a Five Game series. Check it:
Lucas Hann: Clippers in 5. I think that the Clippers got hot and healthy just at the right time. They’ve got an advantageous first-round match-up and a huge showdown with Golden State looming in the second round—they need to take care of business here, and they know it.
Robert Flom: Clippers in 5. The Clippers have more talent across the board than the Jazz, and they match up well with the Jazz's strongest two players in Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. If Luc Mbah a Moute can contain Hayward (well within his capabilities), and DeAndre Jordan is able to match Gobert almost blow for blow, the rest of the Clippers' roster should easily outweigh the their counterparts on the Jazz. I don't see many blowout victories, but I think the Clippers should end up prevailing in relatively short order.
Jonathan Hu: Clippers in 5. The records of the two teams are somewhat deceiving given how injured the Clippers were at points during the season. More importantly the Clippers have shown some signs of life of late and should feel some pressure to end this series as soon as possible given the prospect of facing the Warriors in the next round.
Steve Perrin: Clippers in 5. I don't think it's rocket science. In four meetings this season, the Clippers won three. In fact, in the eight halves of basketball the teams played this season, the Clippers won seven, and the only half the Jazz outscored the Clippers, Utah made 11 consecutive three pointers. So assuming that doesn't happen again...
James Nisky: Clippers in 5. Hayward can't go for the 40 per game which they'd need to win, and they don't have a reasonable answer for Blake Griffin. Keep an eye on DJ camping under the basket and clogging the lane for Blake. The last time these teams played DJ dragged Gobert and others right into Blake's space 5 times in the first quarter alone. We don't need Blake vs. 3 at the rim. If the Clippers keep the lane open, they should take it in 5 and we can expect 27 / 10 / 6 from Blake... should be enough for series MVP.
boltsfan21: Clippers in 5. The only time the Jazz beat us this season was a night when the whole team channeled Reggie Miller and couldn't miss from deep. The other three games were far more representative of the talent disparity between the two teams. Simply put, they can't beat us unless they shoot the lights out, and they just aren't a team that can do that more than once in five games.
Cool story, bros. The fans voting on their poll were a little closer than their writers, 26% (the largest section of the voting group) said Jazz in 6. They were just one off for what it is worth.
As for an opponents guide to hating the Clippers . . . there’s really no point. The Clippers were one of the most insignificant franchises in the history of the sport. Seriously, Beşiktaş has rings and the Clippers do not. The Clippers at their best (this current era) were a team that couldn’t string together eight wins in a year in the post-season (something the D-Will Jazz surpassed in their first go with 9 in 2007). And after this new humiliation, the Clippers are going to return to insignificance.
No one will remember the Clippers name, unless they unearth a box of old HBO stand-up VHS tapes where random comedians make fun of them. We at SLC Dunk don’t need to.
The Clippers are the first team in NBA history to blow a series lead in five straight postseasons. pic.twitter.com/erZVz2RXRP— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 30, 2017
They do it to themselves.
So long Clippers. Your fans deserve better. But your team will be the faintest whisper upon the wind, heard only by those old enough to remember “Lob City.”