I’m going to keep this one (relatively) short. The Utah Jazz looked horrible in Los Angeles, being blown out both games. I think it’s obvious - the Jazz are fighting for their season in this game, if game 4 wasn’t already that game. However, there’s been a few wrinkles - injuries and health issues suck.
Kawhi Leonard is expected to miss Game 5 against the Jazz tonight with a knee injury suffered in game 4, sources tell @ramonashelburne & me. His status for rest of series is in doubt as well.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) June 16, 2021
Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr., (hamstring) will miss Game 5 vs. the Clippers tonight, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2021
Mike Conley: “I had been pushing really hard to play earlier in the series [and] had a small setback related to the hammy during that process. This is why it’s been extended a little bit longer than I know we all would like. Obviously, if I could play, I would."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 16, 2021
Conley said the setback happened the day of Game 2. "I was pretty much prepared to come back in Game 3," Conley said.— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) June 16, 2021
The Jazz almost certainly expected to have Conley back for game 4, and came out flat when he wasn’t able to play. He won’t be available again tonight - he appears to have had a setback in his recovery process. But, the Jazz have beat the Los Angeles Clippers at home with Kawhi twice, without Conley. With the Suns resting up but potentially without Chris Paul, and the Eastern conference all tied up, this presents an open opportunity. The window for a title has never been clearer, and that must come with winning this series. An analysis a few years ago stated that 82 percent of Game 5 winners with series tied (2-2) went on to win, and I would not be surprised if that is still approximately the case.
When: 8:00PM MDT
Where: Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City
Radio: KZNS/KTUB, KEIB-AM/KWKW-LAC
Projected Starting Lineups
LAC (predicted): G: Reggie Jackson G: Paul George F: Marcus Morris Sr. F: Nic Batum C: Ivica Zubac OR G: Reggie Jackson G: Patrick Beverly G: Paul George F: Marcus Morris Sr. C: Nic Batum
What to watch for
Who will step up for the Clippers?
Marcus Morris (24 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 of 6 from 3) and Paul George (31 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 of 10 from 3) both played very well in Game 4. With Kawhi out, it’s up to them to step up. Did their games at home give them confidence? With Marcus Morris in particular, he supposedly plays better with his brother in the audience, like in Game 4, and thankfully he won’t be in attendance tonight:
Reggie Jackson regressed heavily to the mean in Game 4, with only 4 points and 0 of 2 from 3, but that was small solace for when the Jazz were blow off the rails by the Clippers’ big 2. However, Terance Mann has also been huge the last two games, posting +21 and +15 plus-minuses off of the bench and providing a true spark defensively. Watch for his and Patrick Beverley’s defence on Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson, in particular.
Who Will Step up for the Jazz?
Ingles has been pretty consistently on fire from outside - for games two through four, he scored 19 points in each game on 63.6% from 3. His play in the third quarter alongside Rudy was huge in bringing the Jazz (somewhat) back in Game 4. I think it’s safe to say he’s putting it all out there on the floor. The also Jazz certainly could learn to feed Rudy more when he rolls to the basket. I especially wish they would get him involved early with a dunk or two, because Rudy seems to thrive defensively when he gets touches offensively (as odd as that might sound).
Rudy Gobert, on the defensive issues: "It starts with our offense. When we take tough shots, it’s hard to get back and set our defense … we commit fouls, we give up layups, we give up 3s. … It’s a cycle — when we play the right way offensively, we play better defensively."— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) June 15, 2021
However, asking Rudy to dominate offensively when he can’t impose his will in getting the ball in the basket is asking for trouble. So who else can we turn to for an offensive lift? Well, Donovan Mitchell has continued to be amazing in spite of obviously not being 100%.
Most points per minute by a player in a playoff run (min 7 games):— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 15, 2021
0.99 — Donovan Mitchell in 2021
0.96 — Donovan Mitchell in 2020
0.95 — Jerry West in 1965
Spida has scored 263 points in 267 minutes this playoffs. pic.twitter.com/OXxxARrWsM
Donovan Mitchell has scored 30+ points and 5+ threes in 5 straight games, the longest streak in NBA playoff history.— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 15, 2021
That breaks the record previously set by Steph Curry in 2015.
(Submitted by @keerthikau) pic.twitter.com/WrWHhdpgr1
So he’s pretty much scoring as much as he can on that end. Jordan Clarkson had his first off-game of this series in Game 4, with 8 points on 12 shots, being very bothered by the Clippers’ aggressive defense, and he played tremendously well in Utah (42 points and 12 three pointers made on 15 of 33 shooting) so he may be a prime candidate for a return to form. Notable is that he has not taken a single free throw this Clippers series, as opposed to 21 (all made) over the 5-game Grizzlies series, so it would be good for him to look to drive and draw fouls more if possible.
But I would put the onus on Bogey, the Jazz’s current 3rd option, for the player who has the biggest potential to break out. He’s had a supplementary role this Clippers series, putting in making critical shots and defensive plays in Games 1 and 2, but largely disappeared in Los Angeles as their pressing defensive scheme have kept him from really contributing much for Game 3 and the first half of Game 4. However, it seems like he started to figure things out in the second half of Game 4, and with Kawhi out, his job gets much easier. When will he catch fire? Hopefully tonight.