The Utah Jazz (4-3) defeated the Los Angeles Clippers (3-4) on Sunday night by the final score of 104-91. We already know this because a) we already celebrated it, and b) we’re currently less than 24 hours away from tipping off against the (4-0) Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. But I’m not quite done with LAC yet, and you all deserve a better recap than a brown guy dancing around with a mustache. (For the record, I haven’t even SEEN that movie.)
Sunday’s game was for the series. All the ups, the downs, the obstacles, and the successes. CP3 Continuation calls. Diaw waived off threes. Guys getting hurt. Guys stepping up. A seven game series is the culmination of countless hours of preparation, and the hasty in-game adjustments guys in expensive suits have to make during the span of 20 seconds. And this game really was the apex of that.
Utah won the tip - something that failed to do in Game 6 - and it was on. Utah moved the ball around for a Hayward three, that missed, but got the ball back seconds later after Ingles stole the back from Redick and Hill scored. Paul came back heart beats later to drill a jumper himself. It was going to be like this.
The first pivot of this game was when was called for a shooting foul while protecting the rim from the depredations of a Luc Richard Mbah a Moute drive with 8:56 on the clock. Rudy got called for a weak foul at 10:11 in the quarter so he was going to have to sit. Early. In comes Derrick Favors to continue to do his yeoman’s work.
Would LA attack the basket without Rudy there? How would Utah counter attack?
LRMaM would make his two free throws and put LA up for the first time in this game, 5-4.
Well, Favors drew a foul on Paul, got an offensive rebound, assisted on a Hill three, made a pick and slip jumper from 13 feet to keep the Jazz rolling. He’d finish the quarter with sx points, 5 rebounds, and two assists while also drawing fouls.
It was still the Paul / Jordan show on their side of the court, but Utah was passing the ball but not passing up the open shot. The corner three was a weapon again, and with Rudy out we actually saw Utah make up that one point deficit and tie the game 24-24 after the first 12 minutes were in the books.
[Quarter 1: 24-24]
The second quarter was a defensive clinic as Quin Snyder kept shuttling players in and out. We would see Gobert, Hood, Johnson, Favors, Hill, Exum, Hayward, Diaw, and Ingles all step on the court. Of course, part of that was another foul on Gobert, a loose ball foul at 10:02, that had him sitting once again.
Nevertheless, the Jazz asserted their will here. Forcing turn overs (Dante! DANTE), making the Clippers over-think their simple sets, and getting out there to make sure this game was going to not even be decided by the refs. Rodney Hood was feeling it early making a lay-up, hitting a 26 foot three, getting steals, playing defense. This was the hoodie we’ve been missing.
The two-man game between Exum and Hill, Hill and Johnson, and Favors and Hill made this an 11 point game with 5:15 left to play - finally the Jazz bench didn’t let Raymond Felton’s crew hurt them. Jamal Crawford and CP3 would come back and close some of the gap, but at half the Jazz were up 46-39.
LA couldn’t even score 40 on their home court at halftime in a Game 7. This was a good omen.
[Quarter 2: 22-15 UTA]
In the third you could tell that Doc Rivers fired up his club. Chris Paul was trying to do things, and he was: either making shots or turning the ball over. Paul Pierce started here at power forward and you could tell that this was going to be their final stand. But each time they’d make a big shot the Jazz would answer and quiet the crowd.
CP3 makes a jumper? Hayward makes a tougher And-one and hits the free throw.
Paul Pierce hits a three? Boris Diaw hits a toe on the line three and gets fouled, making the three throw.
J.J. Redick finally gets an open look? Joe Ingles blocks that.
Utah would extend the lead to 69-48 off of Favors free throws (you know, because Rudy would pick up his 4th at the 9:07 mark of the third quarter and have to sit out). Up by 21, on the road, with 4 minutes to play in the third quarter? You have to feel confident about that.
The Marreese Speights / Raymond Felton line did come back a bit at the end to cut the lead, but it was 79-63 Utah after three.
[Quarter 3: 33-24 UTA]
In the fourth quarter Utah needed to keep owning the boards, slowing the pace down, an using the clock in their favor. Of course, this meant that there would be 17 free throws attempted in this quarter. Rudy Gobert would foul out. Derrick Favors would foul out. The team would have to finish the game with Boris Diaw at center. But the Jazz would prevail.
The Clippers would cut it to 15 points after a DeAndre Jordan layup (assisted by Austin Rivers). They’d use up the next 8 minutes of game time dropping that 15 point deficit to a 10 point deficit. Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson just weren’t going to LET THEM back into the game without working for it. (Unlike the refs.)
That 10 point margin was due to J.J. Redick actually making a three, but the rest of the way was All That Jazz. Hill would make another jumper, Joe Johnson would hit two free throws, and Gordon Hayward would get the series clinching lay-up after LA didn’t know if they were supposed to foul or not.
The only point LA would score over the last 3+ minutes of this game was one single DeAndre Jordan free throw. Their Hall of Fame / Better than John Stockton point guard would fail to score any points in the fourth quarter of a Game 7 at home - missing each and every shot he would take.
[Quarter 4: 28-25 LAC]
The Jazz win, comfortably, on the road for the third time in the series. And do it in the biggest game of so many of these player’s lives. Snyder played 11 guys who were on the active roster (only Trey Lyles didn’t get off the bench in this one).
- Gordon Hayward dropped 26 points, and had 8 rebounds, 3 assists, got to the line 6 times, and made two threes.
- George Hill had 17, four rebounds, 5 assists, and was a team high +21 in plus/minus.
- Derrick Favors came off the bench to score 17 points, grab 11 rebounds, have three assists, 1 steal, and he shot 8/11. His +15 was second best on the team.
- Joe Ingles bounced back from his shooting slump over the last two games and dropped 12 points off of 6 shots, making two threes to go along with his 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block. His defense this entire series nullified J.J. Redick.
- Rodney Hood finished this game with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and one made three. His 4/6 shooting was a step in the right flamethrower direction.
- Boris Diaw had 10 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and I’m sure a fine wine on the way to Golden State.
- Joe Johnson didn’t have his best shooting night (4/13) but still scored 10 points, to go along with his 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
- Rudy Gobert probably slept with all of these ref’s wives. Six times each.
- In deep bench reserve we saw some good things from Raul Neto, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack, and Jeff Withey. Exum was pure energy, more than he even knew he had, as he had a steal, and was too fast for himself on the lay-up attempt.
The Clippers are done, and their team is going to make some changes this off-season. Had Utah lost, maybe we’d be facing the same problem?
Instead of locker clean out the Jazz move onto round two of the NBA Playoffs, and tip off late Tuesday night against the West Champs, the Golden State Warriors.