The Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers are all tied up. We look at the NBA Playoffs, what’s happened so far in this series, and what new developments are around the corner. Is this a zone with a close proximity to danger for LAC? Have they been here before? How have they handled it? What’s on the horizon of the Jazz? Who has stepped up this series -- and which team has enough to finish strong?
The NBA Playoffs are heating up, one team has advanced, another two are a win away from punching their ticket to the Second Round. And the rest? Pretty much all tied up.
The big news for us Utah Jazz fans has to be the chance of beating the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. LAC has reclaimed home-court, but the Jazz appear to have some level of momentum right now in their battle of attrition. Of course, the big news today is from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski - who announces that combo guard and nepotism beneficiary, Austin Rivers is going to be back for Game 5.
Sources: Clippers expect guard Austin Rivers to return from hamstring injury for Game 5 vs. the Jazz on Tuesday.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) April 24, 2017
What does this mean? Well, Rivers was 5th on their team in total minutes (2054), and 5th in MPG (27.8). He’s a huge part of their guard rotation that they sorely missed in the NBA Playoffs so for with J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford missing so many shots. Those two cats, so far, have shot 30/76 overall - and a pitiful 9/33 from downtown. Yes, they both shot better in Game 4 (12/24, and 7/14 from outside) but part of the reason why LAC is 2-2 and not any better has been their inability to add points from the SG spot.
Does Rivers make life easier for LAC? He should. But I don’t think LAC’s problem was *really* about putting points on the board, but preventing the Jazz from making their outside shots. Is Rivers a defender? He dad was. But I have a hard time thinking that Rivers is capable of stopping the deluge of threes being taken, and made, by Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles, and Rodney Hood.
The side-show here is that Rivers back probably means fewer minutes for Raymond Felton. Felton is shooting .550 | .500 | 1.000 this series so far. But go ahead Doc, take that guy out to put your boy in there. Felton’s 7 to 1 assist to turn over ratio is not good enough. The fruit of your loins will dominate Utah. (Oh wait, Dante Exum is playing games again, maybe Austin won’t go off at all in this case.)
More LAC/UTA tid-bits? Sure. This series started off with no Austin Rivers and Diamond Stone for LA, and no Raul Neto for Utah. Since then we’ve seen Rudy Gobert fall, Blake Griffin stub his toe, Gordon Hayward puke his guys, and Gobert rise again. These two teams had to face injury adversity in the regular season - but the difference was Utah’s injury problem was across the board and hit their starters the hardest. LA was still able to play their best starting line-up over 800 minutes together over those 82 games. (If you remember correctly, the Jazz had 150 minutes together for their most seen line-up, period.)
Utah’s ability to roll with the punches and find cohesion is paying off. LA’s over-reliance upon their star guys seems to be less useful now when one of their big minute guys is out for the rest of the playoffs.
But if anything, we can’t be too haughty about this, you never know who the Jazz will lose next. That said, it’s so easy to make fun of LAC. This image fails to mention that this is for the last 10 seasons out West we’ve seen nothing but post-season failure from Chris Paul.
Furthermore, man, I can’t stop watching this Gordon Hayward undressing of DeAndre Jordan from Game 3:
BAHHAHAHAHHAHA DeAndre Jordan called out Gordon Hayward on defense like "I SEE YOU IM LOCKED IN" and then got straight up roasted pic.twitter.com/hSM6bkPBde— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) April 22, 2017
But seriously though, there’s some good reads out there about the Clippers. My guy Adi dropped this a few days ago for USA Today:
Is Blake Griffin a great player? My deep(-ish) dive into the question that will define the future of the Clippers: https://t.co/dyfjktaEi0— Adi Joseph (@AdiJoseph) April 22, 2017
He points out the legit concerns around Blake, who is entering free agency this July: injuries; his role going forward next to DeAndre Jordan; and toughness. It’s funny to me, such a built guy who made a rep for flexing after dunks is still the same guy who flops like a fish at times. He’s a fake tough guy. And will be in my mind for a very long time. You can’t ride a fraud. And that’s what we’ve seen from this “prototypical PF who will one day be better than Karl Malone” player over his career.
John Gonzalez of The Ringer also lowers the boom on this boom or bust roster.
Griffin, who missed 21 games this season, had arthroscopic knee surgery in December. The season before, he appeared in just 35 regular-season games, partly because of a broken hand suffered in a bizarre off-court fight with a team employee at a Toronto dinner outing gone sideways. He also suffered a partially torn quad, which he re-injured in the 2016 playoffs against Portland. The last time Griffin played more than 67 games was back in the 2013–14 campaign.
This marks the third consecutive postseason that injuries have crippled the Clippers. In addition to Griffin going down in the first round against the Trail Blazers last season, the Clippers also lost Paul when he broke his hand in Game 4. Portland upended Los Angeles and won the series in six games. The year before that, Paul missed two second-round games with a hamstring injury, and the Rockets dispatched the Clippers in seven. And now here the Clippers are again — damaged and disappointed. Just when you think they might navigate their way through a portion of the playoffs without incident, they crash at the treacherous intersection of bad luck and postseason aspirations.
I’m not going to take pity on them though for being injured. You can’t talk to the Jazz about your injury woes.
Moving on, even though this is probably staged, this is brutal. And we love Jazz bear:
Something that wasn’t staged is just how well Joe Ingles has turned out for Utah.
when you put on a masterclass in the NBA Playoffs against the team that waived you... pic.twitter.com/VHt7iBCmL7— The Pick and Roll (@PickandRollAU) April 24, 2017
It hurts even more that he’s doing it to the team that should have signed him.
Doc Rivers could have signed Joe Ingles. Instead, he let him thrive with the Jazz.https://t.co/KyG4AzqdS9— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 24, 2017
Kristian Winfield writes:
Joe Ingles was the difference in a must-win game for the Utah Jazz.
He carved up the Los Angeles Clippers for eight points, 11 assists, six rebounds, two steals, and a block in Utah’s Game 4 win on Sunday. Six of those points came in the final 3:24 of the fourth quarter, where Ingles nailed two triples to help extend a one-point Jazz lead to eight. He produced a stat line that would have impressed Draymond Green.
But Ingles could have been the difference for the Clippers instead of the Jazz.
After all, it was Doc Rivers who brought the Australian forward over after his final season with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2014. But it was also the Clippers president’s managerial whiff that cost him a talented player.
Back then, Ingles was competing against high-flying Jared Cunningham for the Clippers’ final roster spot. Neither had guaranteed contracts, but then, Jordan Farmar got hurt, and the Clippers needed to fill a void at their backup point guard. Ingles still had a chance to make the team, but Cunningham poured in 23 points in the preseason finale.
We already knew that, but that’s because we’re crazy Jazz fans.
The Playoffs are good for the souls of us fans. But apparently, in no big surprise, is good for the economy as well.
I can assume right now that Game 6 tickets are probably all sold out already. But you can watch the games at home, or at a local sports bar - you know if you ever leave your house. TNT’s production of Game 6 will include Jazz friend color guy Kevin McHale!
Woo! Make that money, LHM legacy trust non-profit charity!
So far this series we’ve seen Utah win at home and on the road. And they won without Rudy Gobert, and now most recently, without Gordon Hayward. A huge part of that? Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson. EVERYONE is on their jocks right now. (Where were they all season long when they were writing about other teams, though?)
If you go beyond words and just look at the numbers, Joe Jesus and Joe Buddha have been the best players for this team during the NBA Playoffs.
The Utah Jazz are tied 2-2 in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. Here's how all their players stack up in TPA: pic.twitter.com/aCNwRXldDR— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) April 24, 2017
Joe Johnson is far and away the best offensive player on the team right now when he’s on the court (you know, if you avoid the fact that Dante Exum has a playoff ORTG of 278), and Joe Ingles is lockdown on defense. Because per game stats are (somehow) still what we care about a lot in this era of advanced stats, this is what this pair has been doing in the four games:
- Johnson (32.3 mpg): 19.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.5 3ptm
- Ingles (34.5 mpg): 8.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.0 spg, 2.0 3ptm
According to NBA.com, when they are on the court together the team is just on fire on offense. They are shooting a combined .557 from the field and .450 from outside when they are on the court together. In their 183 mins on the court together they are a +13 in +/-, which is tied for fourth best on the team. The top four all have Joe Johnson in them (with George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Boris Diaw). The fifth best tandem in Jazz playoff +/- is Ingles/Hood.
Ultimately, 2-2 while missing Rudy for three games and Gordon for 1 isn’t half bad at all. Though, some of the places online now see LAC still prevailing. (ESPN after Game 4, and this place for a lot of reading.)
So, here we are. Best 2 out of 3. Chris Paul is unstoppable, but with Rudy Gobert back DeAndre Jordan looks human again. No more Blake Griffin, but they have Austin Rivers coming back. J.J. and Jamal are online from outside once again, but our Joes are playing great. Gordon Hayward can’t be sick forever. Depth vs. Stars.
What’s your Jazz Kool-aid meter like right now?
Utah Jazz Kool-Aid Meter: 4/24/2017
This poll is closed
10/10 This is all sugar and I’m not going to stop drinking any time soon!
1 - Somehow even more neutral than water
Oh, and Rudy Gobert is back too!