On a night that saw the return of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for the Los Angeles Clippers, as well as Mike Conley for the Utah Jazz, the Clippers came out on top 116-112.
It was a physical playoff-style atmosphere with both teams looking to assert their dominance in the Western Conference. The Clippers showed what they are capable of with their length and athleticism on defense and shot making on offense. They did a good job of defending the Jazz for most of the night and it was that strong defense that powered them to the win.
For Utah, it was a tough night that saw them get away from what they like to do on offense. Likely caused by the Clippers elite length and athleticism on defense, Utah was not able to get the threes they normally take. For the night Utah took 34 threes and made 35% of them (that almost feels inflated because of Donovan Mitchell’s late game heroics). For the season Utah is shooting 42.3 threes a game. You can do the math but even with the lower percentage tonight, this is a different game without those shots.
It was also a tale of two halves for the Jazz. As incredible as Donovan Mitchell looked in the second half, he was not as good in the first. Mitchell struggled in the first to make shots and it looked like Pat Beverley was a major reason for it.
(on a side note, Snyder also sat Mitchell for an extended amount of time because he got 2 fouls early. It’s something I don’t always understand from Snyder. Mitchell ended the game with 4 fouls but because he sat, and because he was tentative when he came back in, it felt like he was avoiding fouls and his defense struggled because of it. And do we honestly think Mitchell will be in any sort of situation where he might foul out? Maybe, but it does feel like this is a rote rule for Jazz rotations that could use a little bit more spirit of the law.)
Back to the point about Beverley. It seems like he really affected Mitchell for 6 of the 8 quarters these last two games. The good news? Mitchell overcame it in a big way in the second half.
I mean he really overcame it...
giving spida an open lane: a mistake.@spidadmitchell has 23 points pic.twitter.com/HCvAPUaphr— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 20, 2021
It’s a shame the Jazz don’t get to play the Clippers again next game cause you could tell they figured a lot of things out after half time. I guess they’ll have to wait till playoff time.
For the Clippers, they owe a lot to the shot making of
Kawhi Leonard Paul George Marcus Morris. For the game Morris shot 7/11 from the field and 3/5 from three. With the game on the line he hit big shots that stemmed off every Jazz run.
Of course you also have to give credit to Kawhi Leonard who was fantastic. His shot-making in the mid range kept the Clippers on top for most of the game. He’s still just as formidable as he’s ever been. Yet despite how great he looked, he still shot 10/24 from the field and 0/4 from three. Some of the credit for keeping him from going off too big should go to Royce O’Neale. He’s become a premier defender in the league and will be essential to the Jazz if they eventually meet up with the Clippers in the playoffs.
The other player for Utah that deserves credit is Rudy Gobert. Gobert didn’t have his best game offensively with some bobbled passes here and there. He also didn’t impact the offensive glass too much, which is a testament to the Clippers team rebounding, but Gobert’s defense was really good and it keeps the Jazz in games, even ones like this one where they could get ugly quick.
There are two silver linings to this one, Mike Conley returned and Bojan Bogdanovic was hitting shots. Conley came in and hit shots but it looks like he’ll need a game or two to work his way back to form. The strangest assist of the night is probably 0 assists for Conley. Seeing Bogdanovic hit shots (8/11 from the field and 4/5 from three) is a welcome sight for the Jazz. He’s been terrible from three for quite a few games and so it’s nice to see him back to his old form.
Bogdanovic had a nice game tonight. He hit an incredible number from three 4/5 and he also defended surprisingly well the times he was on Kawhi Leonard.
Having Bogdanovic hit his threes like this is a big deal and will open up the Jazz offense against any opponent. When he’s hitting these shots it’s just up to Mitchell and Conley to get him the ball.