While kids everywhere were in sugar comas from eating Easter candy from all the eggs they put in their Easter egg hunt basket, Joe Johnson was furiously trying to put an egg of his own into a basket. The egg happened to be named Spalding. Spalding made it safely into his basket before time expired.
The Utah Jazz picked the best person to make this clutch shot as Joe Johnson leads all active NBA players for the most game winners in the past decade. He has 8. The second place guy is way behind him with only 4.
21 points isn’t too shabby either for a 35 year old guy who comes off the bench. The three solid vets picked up by the Jazz this past offseason have combined to win 1 NBA championship, 1 NBA most improved player award, and one All-NBA third team honor. It also doesn’t hurt that they have combined to play a total of 287 playoff games.
Here is what the Jazz need to do to weather the storm without their prime paint protector:
Keep playing hungry: In the first game the Clippers underestimated the Jazz and spent more time complaining than hustling on defense. The Jazz did hustle and it paid off in a close win. The Clippers will be hungry this time. They need to be desperate for a win because they don’t want to face the wild fans by the Wasatch mountains down 0-2. The Jazz will need to ratchet up their intensity that much more to steal Game 2.
Feed the hot hand: Hopefully the hot hand is Hayward since he kept shooting and missed several in Game 1. Thankfully other players stepped up. Hayward is still young as far as playoff experience is concerned so he needs to know when to keep shooting and when to feed an open hot hand like he did to Joe Johnson in game 1.
Turn back the clock for Favors: Ok this isn’t scientifically possible… yet. However, team doctors should do all they can to keep D-Fav healthy. He was excellent in Game 1. He will need to continue to be excellent as he gets beat up during this series. The loss of Gobert makes the Jazz have to play smaller big men but Favors has the talent to prove that big guys under 7 feet can still impact the game.
Guard the stars and live with random guys like Mbah a Moute getting hot: While you may need to struggle to pronounce this guy’s name, you shouldn’t struggle to guard this Small Forward if you’re Gordon Hayward. Make guys that nobody knows about a non-factor. It’s embarrassing for a star like Chris Paul to be shut down. Shut him, Blake and Deandre Down and make them kick it out to guys like JJ Redick. If you’re the Jazz you have to live with someone getting hot. It’s easier to leave a guy opened who peaked in college than leave bona fide stars open.
The Jazz may need to play a couple games or even this whole series without Rudy but it’s clear that with a win on the road for Game 1 they can step on the metaphorical throat of the LA Clippers if they stay true to their identity. Hard work pays off and the Jazz have especially shown that they want to compete since Rudy questioned their toughness in the regular season. Now the Jazz Bear might be their mascot but Rudy is their ring leader. Go-BEAR or home!