Jazz Are Proving To Be Too Much To Handle For The Clippers

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Updated: June 12, 2021
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Up 1 on the series, and the Utah Jazz came out the gates firing. After his 40-point performance two nights before, Donavon Mitchell seemed to be set on automatic from distance, determined to head back to Los Angeles 2-0 to the Clippers. 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting in the first 7 minutes of the game and an 8-point lead, it looked as if the Spider, moved from the 2 guard to point in Conley’s absence was determined to put away the Clippers early. With the anchor at the rim Rudy Gobert receiving his 3rd Defensive Player of the Year award before tip-off, the home team in Utah appeared to have the juice from the jump.

But as we’ve seen this year more than ever, this game is one of runs. Ty Lue went to DeMarcus Boogie Cousins early. A player that many of us had forgotten had been acquired by LA late in the season on a 720,000 dollar deal, came in and seemed to calm the waters. An 8 point early lead which felt like the beginning of a tidal wave was cut to 1 by the end of the first.

Halfway through the second, 6th man Jordan Clarkson started to cook with a quick 15. For a team that likes to get others involved and move the ball, the Jazz love to feed their microwave scorer off the bench with his ISO heavy attack. But with all that ammunition it appeared LA was ready to go blow for blow cutting the lead down to 2. Mitchell tweaked the same ankle that had him sidelined for the final 16 games of the regular season along with their 1st playoff game against Memphis. Bojan Bogdanovic rolled his ankle under the giant foot of Boogie Cousins which conveniently found itself underneath the shooter on the perimeter jumper. The pace began to slow, and it appeared the possible injuries were something we would need to monitor as the game tightened. None of it seemed to matter though, as the young All-Star would not be held back by physical limitations. Leading the late 2nd quarter 14 to 3 run, Mitchell hit a 24-foot bomb to extend a double-digit lead to 13 with 27 points for the half.

As effective as Kawhi had looked, the question that had to be in everyone’s minds at halftime, was if his co-star, 35 million dollar 2-way wing PG-13 would show up or remain silent when it mattered most. In game one, neither of them seemed to want the ball in the last possession which ended up in the desperate hands of Marcus Morris in the corner only to be blocked by the Frenchmen at the buzzer. Would the tandem of 2-way All-NBA wings rise to the occasion, or would they allow a 24-year-old guard to bury this series young?

In the opening minutes of the second half, it was more of the same. Rudy Gobert’s presence in the paint seemed to continue to alter shots that were never taken. As the Clips opted to send the double at D-Mitch, he continued to find outlet passes for easy baskets at the rim and wide-open 3-point shooters. Even with all that attention, Mitchell continued to fire and broke the 30-point threshold with 10 minutes still on the clock in the 3rd as the lead continued to swell to 21.

Just as it felt like things might get out of hand, it was not the Klaw or PG, but Reggie Jackson in his contract year with a quick barrage of buckets which brought the lead back to 12 forcing an early time-out from Quin Snider. Ty Lue opted to drop into a zone which seemed to have affected Utah’s rhythm on the offensive end as LA went on a 12-0 run. With 4 minutes to play in the 3rd, the Clippers had cut the once 21 point lead to single digits. Ending the 3rd on a 31-17 run for LA. The NBA playoffs would be decided as it should be, by 4th quarter basketball and the Jazz lead at 7. Clarkson at 24 points with 6-9 3 pointers and D-Mitch at 30, would the Clippers have the answers to solve this young scoring duo?

Ty Lue opted to insert recently benched Patrick Beverly to start the 4th. And just in Pat Bev fashion, with only 15 seconds into the quarter, he drew a flagrant 1 on forward Joe Ingles, giving him 2 free throws to bring the lead down to 5. As D-Mitch had seemed to have cooled down to an icy chill from his hot start, with an interception, and an uncontested poster-jam at the rim by Kawhi Leonard halfway through the 4th it was a 2-point ball game. In attempts to prove their styles of play are not of equal value, Kawhi’s attack was set at a slow boil hopefully peaking at the right time in late-game action. It was not Paul George, but Reggie Jackson as Kawhi’s number 2 with back-to-back wide open 3’s to push the Clippers to their first lead of the evening. 101 to 99. Who would have juice down the stretch of game 2?

LA’s advantage did not last long. With Utah’s 17th made triple of the night by Bogdanovic, the Jazz reclaimed the lead at 104-101 with 5:54 remaining. With Donavon Mitchell reentering the game, both teams closing units had seemed to be solidified. Utah remaining large with O’Neal and Gobert in the frontcourt, while Lue and the Clips went small, with Beverly and Jackson in the frontcourt, and Marcus Morris at the 5. The weak link in their defense of chain Luke Kennard who the Jazz relentlessly attacked in game one was nowhere to be found.

Snider also went with defense and ball movement leaving Clarkson on the sidelines and Joe Ingles in his place. It proved to be effective. With only 3 minutes left in the 4th, Ozzy Joe Ingles walked into a pull-up jumper to hit the Jazz’s 20th 3 pointer of the night to regain a double-digit lead. A timeout by the Clips, and we found ourselves in crunch time, as T-Lue decided to reenter Luke Kennard in for Pat Pev in a desperate attempt to add a shooter in hopes of a comeback.

Immediately Bogdanovic, the man asked to guard former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, applied heavy pressure and forced a jump ball on the floor. He was the key variable missing in the Jazz’s playoff equation last season and has proven so far to be impactful on both ends of the floor. Not only forcing a jump ball but winning the tip and knocking the ball back to D-Mitch, the Jazz would take possession of the ball with a double-digit lead and 2:54 remaining. But as these playoffs have proven time and time again, 3 minutes is an eternity in the NBA.

Both teams went dry for over a minute without a single basket. That was until a pair of defensive breakdowns by Utah and an And-1 by the mostly quiet Paul George, and we had ourselves a 5-point game with 56 seconds remaining. But Mitchell responded. With his head down, 220 pounds of will got to the basket for the layup extending the lead back up to 7. With the failed offensive attempt by the Clippers, Donavon’s basket at the rim proved to be the dagger.

In the Jazz’s last meaningful possession Paul George ran through Mitchell off ball and Mitchell came up favoring the bad ankle. If his health is in question, it may all be a different story moving forward, but it’s an ankle, and one would assume the tough D-Mitch will tape it up and ball. We tend to overreact, just as we did when LA was down 2-0 to Luka in Dallas and still came out of round 1. One thing is clear though, Utah has some serious psychological real estate in the minds of the Clippers. If Mitchell is healthy, they may remain the LA franchise unable to reach a Conference Finals.

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Roman Five
Roman Five
1 month ago

Best basketball article so far!!!

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