This is the big one. The biggest game of the season for our guys since . . . the last game, and the last game before that, and so on. Each game in the NBA Playoffs means so much because there are only seven you can play before figuring out if you were good enough. Right now the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers both are talking the talk. Doc Rivers is doing that talking to the press. Quin Snyder is doing that talking in time-outs. Both teams have responded as best they can.
It’s all tied up. Utah won Game 1, lost the middle two, and came back to win Game 4. The team that usually wins Game 1 usually wins the first round series. The History books tell us that the home team wins Game 5 in this situation more than half the time. ESPN’s heartless program says it’s still LAC’s series to lose. Furthermore, their aggregator indicates that while Utah has somehow become the consensus pick to win it all, the money is on LAC (-3) tonight.
I never learned divination. So I don’t know how much I can believe in what ‘should’ happen. I do know about what CAN happen. And tonight the Jazz can re-take control of this series against a Clippers team that right now looks like it’s lesser than the sum of its’ parts.
Some of those parts are broken right now, or at least not working at regular effectiveness. So granted, it’s not a perfect time for their team right now. Not having Blake Griffin is a big problem. I understand that. I almost feel bad for them.
Did they feel for us when Rudy Gobert was crawling back on defense, though?
And that’s the thing. This Jazz team has to go into the Clippers house (or at least the house they are subletting from the Lakers) on a mission. And that mission is to decapitate them. They aren’t going to put up much of a fight without their head.
And that head is Chris Paul.
Try to get the ball out of his hands, make other players be the play makers. It’s risky, but so far letting Paul be the playmaker has made this series a few ball bounces away from being a Jazz exit in four games.
Austin Rivers is going to be back, so maybe this is the wrong thing to say - he could be a playmaker that hurts the Jazz. He has before this year.
Utah needs to consolidate their power in this game, be the bigger team. Be the more unselfish team. Work for the best shots. Make sure that every rebound is theirs.
On the road you have to be near perfect to win. In the conditions tonight it’s going to be that much harder. But Utah has won in LA before, in fact they did it just a few games ago. There are no monsters in STAPLES. Just ghosts.
And those ghosts can be quieted so quickly with tough defense and a slow pace of play.
Rudy Gobert. DeAndre Jordan. The world rests upon their shoulders. And the one who wrestles more of it away from the other will be crowned king of it. Rudy’s gotta play to his strengths, which are the same strengths of DeAndre. Also, if possible, our big has to do better from the FT line than theirs.
It could be that simple. Box out. Get rebounds. Change shots on drives. Make free throws.
And stay out of foul trouble.
Discipline. The team that retains the most composure will have a huge advantage in this game. No technicals. No illegal defense free throws surrendered. Don’t bark at the ref if things aren’t going your way, but hustle back on defense. Close out hard, but in control. Switch with purpose and at the right time so that your teammate can recognize the switch and get to where he needs to be.
Keep the crowd out of it. And if it’s loud, find a way to quiet them.
A young team playing a big game on the road in the playoffs . . . that can be a wild problem. (I’ve seen it before so many times.) Thankfully George Hill, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw are on our side.
Jazz win. Because . . . Doc Rivers makes poor decisions in press conferences.