The Utah Jazz own a 1-0 lead thanks to a Game 1 thriller, but tonight will determine much of what this series will be. A win by the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 will turn this into the closely contested series that many expected. On the flip side, a win for the Jazz will give them a commanding lead and all the necessary momentum to win the series in four or five games.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, they will be without All-Star point guard Mike Conley for a second straight game due to a mild hamstring strain. Excluding his injury-shortened Game 5 vs Memphis, Conley has averaged 20.0 points, 10.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds in these playoffs. Without him, the task of getting a 2-0 lead is much harder.
When: 8:00 PM MDT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena; Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: 97.5 FM, 1280 AM The Zone, Utah Jazz App - WMFSKZNS/KTUB
What to watch for
How will the Jazz start the game?
Utah’s thrilling comeback and finish were necessary because the Jazz were abysmal in the first half of Game 1. If the two halves are more balanced and truer to Utah’s regular form, the game may be less exciting though better for the heart health of Jazz fans.
Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson shooting efficiency
The Jazz were blessed with two major Sixth Man of the Year candidates in Ingles and Clarkson. However, neither has played up to their potential in the playoffs. Both are shooting the same 28.6 percent from three in the postseason and both are shooting below 40 percent overall. Ingles is also sitting notably below his regular-season assist average (3.5 vs 4.7).
These two form the backbone of Utah’s bench in normal cases, but with Ingles starting it’s even harder to overcome these struggles. The Grizzlies couldn’t call the Jazz on this weakness, but the Clippers will take advantage if these struggles continue.
Will Donovan explode again with Conley out again?
Last time out Mitchell took it upon himself to win the game with his offense and scored 45 points, 32 of those coming in the second half. With no Conley again, the ball-handling load Mitchell had to take in Game 1 will remain.
Luckily, Mitchell and the Jazz have fared rather well in games where Conley sat and Mitchell still played. The team’s overall record (including Tuesday’s game) is 13-1 with an average point differential of +14.9. Two of those 13 wins have now come against the Clippers.
Mitchell himself has averaged 29.9 points, 5.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds on 47.6 percent shooting and 44.4 percent 3-point shooting in games sans Conley (his normal averages are 26.4/5.2/4.4 on 43.8/38.6 shooting).
The Clippers are sure to make adjustments to try and keep Mitchell away from his fifth career 40-point game, but sometimes you can’t stop guys like Spida.