The Utah Jazz will face the Los Angeles Clippers in game one of the western conference semifinal on Tuesday, June 8th. This is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road for the Jazz. After facing a tough but clearly overmatched Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, the Jazz will set out to prove that they are legitimate contenders for a championship. Not to say that they still won’t have a tough road ahead to claim their first title if they do prevail in this series, but if the Jazz can beat the Clippers then it will silence a lot of the doubters who think that the Jazz are nothing more than a regular season champ. The Jazz have to have a healthy amount of respect for the Clippers because of the stars on LA’s roster, but hopefully they also have respect for themselves and take some pride in going out there and sending a message to the basketball world that they are for real. Game 1 of this series will not guarantee a winner obviously but it is very important for the Jazz to set the tone against a team that poses a serious threat to steal on of the first two games.
The Clippers are coming off of a tough, grind it out series win over the Dallas Mavericks that went the full 7 games and saw the Clippers start off in a 0-2 hole. So this team has already overcome a lot of adversity in this playoffs. It helps when you have a superstar in Kawhi Leonard who single handedly took over in game 6 and 7 to help the Clippers take the series. Los Angeles is not just about one guy though they have a fairly balanced team. The really dangerous thing about a star like Leonard is that he is not too proud to facilitate and get his teammates involved and if that happens the Jazz are going to have their hands full. ”These games are not won with just one or two great players,” said Leonard during the first round. Just like the Jazz the entire Clippers organization is trying to recover from the unexpected 3-1 meltdown against the Denver Nuggets in last year’s playoff and that means that their whole team is playing with a chip on their collective shoulders.
The biggest question mark for the Jazz entering game 1 is the health of point guard Mike Conley. Conley was a big factor in the season series vs. the Clippers, scoring 33 points on a New Year’s Day win vs. Los Angeles when both teams were healthy. The Jazz announced Monday that Conley was able to practice with the team recently but his status for the game is still uncertain. The other x-factor in this series is going to be Rudy Gobert. The Clippers will no doubt try to play small ball in order to lessen Rudy Gobert’s effectiveness near the rim. In the past teams have had some success with this strategy, however, it is usually with teams that have a small ball center who is a great shooter. Marcus Morris is a decent shooting 5 that can cause problems, but consistency hasn’t always been there so it will be interesting to see what happens if the outside shot aren’t falling for LA.
The great thing about his series is that both teams have a lot of similarities and it should be entertaining to watch. Two evenly matched teams both with championship aspirations, both with at least one superstar who can carry their teams in crunch time if need be and two great defensive teams who can stifle an opponent from time to time. Game 1 is finally here, go Jazz!
When: 8:00PM MDT
Where: Vivint SmartHome Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone, Utah Jazz App