The Utah Jazz entered this game being given a gift by the Houston Rockets. The Rockets halfway through tonight’s game had defeated the Portland Trail Blazers on a Chris Paul game winning shot. That put Portland only 2.5 games ahead of the Utah Jazz for the coveted 3rd seed. If the Jazz wanted to get greedy, that three seed in the Western Conference is starting to be in reach. Tonight was the first step toward that three seed push. The Utah Jazz beat the LA Clippers 117-95 with Donovan Mitchell leading the way with 19 points.
Tonight was very much a team effort because it had to be. Ricky Rubio left the game with a sore hamstring then Jae Crowder left by a friendly fire injury with Derrick Favors resulting in a corneal abrasion. That left the Jazz’s bench to work overtime. And work they did. Alec Burks came in the game with big minutes after not seeing the light of day. He had 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting. Dante Exum had 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting while adding 4 points, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. Royce O’Neale had 8 points while adding 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
The play of the game had to have been Dante Exum’s block on Boban Marjanovic. Just take a look at the play yourself. Dante Exum climbed the ladder to block 7’3 Boban’s shot.
Going into the second half, Utah was ahead by 16 points. The LA Clippers wouldn’t come out of the half fighting for their playoff lives. Utah stomped them out defensively in the third quarter, only allowing them to score 18 points total.
The Utah Jazz were led by the big defensive efforts of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. They quickly got the LA Clippers bigs into foul trouble. That allowed Utah’s guards to take advantage of their opportunities. Rudy Gobert finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks while Derrick Favors had 16 points and 3 rebounds.
For the LA Clippers, it appears that this is the end of the road toward their playoff push. While they’re not quite mathematically eliminated, they are for all intent and purposes out of the playoffs at this point. They can’t control their playoff fate even in they win out.
For the Utah Jazz, this game puts them only two games behind the Portland Trail Blazers with only three games left to go. Portland losing Dame to an ankle injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. They now go on the road to face the San Antonio Spurs who are fighting to get back to the four seed that the Jazz now occupy. Then they go on the road again to face the Denver Nuggets who are only 1 game out of the playoffs right now could quickly move up with a win against the Trail Blazers. All that culminates with a game in Portland against Utah in what could be a game for the division and the three seed. It may seem unlikely, but with Damian Lillard out or recovering these next couple games ... anything is possible.
Utah will next play the Los Angeles Lakers in LA on Sunday afternoon at 4:00PM MT. Let’s hope the Nightlife doesn’t prove too tempting.
[Update 4/5/2018 10:06PM MT]
Jonas Jerebko found out before the game that his grandmother in Sweden passed away. He wrote her name on his shoes tonight. He scored 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting and filled in tremendously for the injured Jae Crowder. Grandma was smiling in the heavens tonight. Condolences on your loss and our prayers and thoughts go out to your family. The Jerebko’s raised an amazing son.
Joe Ingles played the most minutes of any player and he was the one who was questionable before the game with a knee contusion. He went for 11 points on 4 of 8 shooting. Finishing with 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and only 1 turnover.
As of writing this the Minnesota Timberwolves—who are only one game up on Denver in the standings-is ahead of the Nuggets by 3 points at halftime. The Western Conference is the NBA version of yakety sax.
Alec Burks who hadn’t played meaningful minutes since who can remember played some strong minutes tonight. His minutes helped stretch the Utah lead. With Rubio and Crowder out with injuries, tonight’s game could have become a lot more competitive in the 2nd quarter, instead Burks was absolutely solid.
David Stockton checked in for two minutes and scored a three. Good karma.