The Phoenix Suns look good so far, having swept the Nuggets behind excellent play of All-Stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker, in spite of MVP Nikola Jokic’s best efforts (and unfortunate 4th game 3rd quarter ejection). Thus, the longer this Jazz-Clippers series goes, the harder that series is going to be against Suns. And boy, did game three feel like the Los Angeles Clippers threw the gauntlet down. The thing is, the Jazz have not played with certified Clippers-killer Mike Conley at all so far. His absence has really been felt with Rudy not being able to get the ball where he’s most effective offensively, and Reggie Jackson tearing up the Jazz’s defense to the tune of 63% from three on 19 attempts. It’s clear Donovan is not 100%, and unfortunately Mike will be out again for game four...
Mike Conley is out (mild right hamstring strain).— utahjazz (@utahjazz) June 14, 2021
So the Jazz will need to make do.
When: 8:00PM MDT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Radio: KEIB-AM/KWKW-LAC, KZNS/KTUB
Projected Starting Lineups
LAC (predicted): G: Reggie Jackson G: Paul George F: Kawhi Leonard F: Marcus Morris Sr. C: Nic Batum
What to watch for
There are many storylines to watch out for in game 4 against the Clippers, but I’ll highlight the main ones here:
Donovan versus the The Clips Big 2
Donovan Mitchell has not looked the same since tweaking his ankle midway through Game 2. Even though he’s managed to score at least 30 points in all games in this series so far, Game 3 was by far his worst showing defensively, and he limped off to the locker room with 7 minutes left. It’s clear that the intensity of the playoffs has really affected him physically, even if he has been mentally strong to power through the pain. Through the first two games, his offensive production was nearly equal to the Kawhi and PG combined, but that heavy load has very much affected him, and we saw that in Game 3. The Clippers furthermore did a lot of trapping and double-teaming to get the ball out of his hands, which reduced his effectiveness as the complementary players were unable to really punish this.
Kawhi has seemed somewhat passive this series (credit to Royce O’Neale and Bojan), but he’s still shredded the Jazz up for 26 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. In game 3, he looked renewed, putting in tremendous effort on the rebounds and shooting 5/8 on mid range jumpers despite a bad night from three. Kawhi also hasn’t missed a single field goal in 4th quarters in all 5 Clipper wins. But his big night was overshadowed by a similarly outstanding game from Paul George. Of course, the question of was Game Three the “real PG” or was what we saw in Games 1 and 2 more like it? He has been defended by Donovan a lot, but it really seems like Don wasn’t able to keep in front of him last game, and he made tremendous shots and plays at crucial times in each period (particularly the 2nd and 4th) to keep the Jazz at bay. Which Paul George will we see tonight?
The Battle of Secondary Offensive Threats
Bojan Bogdanovic had a very bad game 3, with only 9 points and 4 rebounds on 2 of 10 shooting (1 of 5 from three) in a team-high 35 minutes, frustrated by Kawhi, Paul George, and Nic Batum at times. Reggie Jackson continued to play out of his mind with 17 points on 8 shots and 5 3PM, an outstanding anomaly given he was a 29.4% three point shooter his first 5 seasons in the league. We need Denver Nuggets game-shooting Bojan and for Reggie Jackson to return to earth in order to have a shot at winning tonight.
Jazz need Reggie Jackson to come back to earth a bit. 19 attempts on 63%. He needs a 1-5 night from 3.— Adam Bushman (@adam_bushman) June 14, 2021
I looked at his 4 game stretches from regular season. Frequency distribution below.
A 1-5 night would bring his series 3P% to 54.2%. Given the below distribution, can happen! pic.twitter.com/F9J74mXlOK
Furthermore, while the Clippers have gotten great lifts from Nic Batum, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann and even DeMarcus Cousins at time, everyone on the Jazz bench outside of Jordan Clarkson has looked bad the last two games. Outside of Jordan Clarkson, the Jazz have gotten almost no offensive production from the bench. Faves and Niang had 5 combined points in game 1, Clarkson made all 24 bench points in Game 2, and Faves was the only other player to score in game 3 (2 points). Georges Niang in particularly is going through a cold slump, and effectively shut the Jazz out of the game at the beginning of the 4th. Miye Oni hasn’t been able to play very well without fouling (still getting rookie fouls called on him), and . The Clippers have a lot of weapons and it just feels like the Jazz are suffering from a lack of real depth.
Lineups and Rudy’s minutes
Let’s get this straight - Rudy did not play well in Game 3. But outside of a few spectacular minutes in Game 1 and some moments against Jonas Valanciunas, his backup, Derrick Favors, has played worse.
Looking forward, look for Ty Lue to play much less of non-shooters Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris (who is 1 of 16 from three this series), and DeMarcus Cousins, and to go even smaller with lineups with three guards (such as a mix of Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Patrick Beverley, Paul George, and even Rajon Rondo). Ty Lue was quoted as saying the Clippers needed to change their approach in order to handle Rudy Gobert, but it seems like the adjustments he made against the Mavs (going small) also proved successful against the Jazz. For Rudy to not be “played off the floor”, he and the Jazz will need to prove that they can carry their defense over into small-ball lineups. And, in spite of what anyone might say, Rudy has still done very well all series against these 5-out lineups! So if Quin plays Rudy any less than 36 to 38 minutes tonight, the difference caused by the bench may just be too much to overcome.
Update on the how Jazz are handling the Clippers "5-out" lineup:— Adam Bushman (@adam_bushman) June 14, 2021
+3.9 point diff
-22.7 point diff
At risk of jinxing this statistic, the Jazz have switched to their Gold “Statement Edition” jerseys for tonight’s game, in which the Jazz have not lost at all this season in. Last season, they were the “cursed jersey”, scheduled to be worn 16 times but after a 1 and 6 record, were tabled for good. However, with good superstition this year, it looks like we’re hoping for a bit of that magic gold dust this time around.
9-0. For those “playoffs only” fans that haven’t been watching. https://t.co/wYsBxvE1NI— Jazz Uniform Tracker (@JazzUniTracker) June 14, 2021