by Griffin Gamble
The Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 112-109 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. It was an exciting competition from start to finish. It’s time to review how it all went down.
Early shooting struggles
The Jazz are a team that tends to live and die by the three. They attempted the most threes in NBA history this season. In the first quarter of this series, they missed 21 straight shots at one point. Six of their first eight shots were from three. Donovan Mitchell shot five threes in the first 6 minutes of the game.
In the second quarter, the Jazz started to attack the hoop more which ultimately kept them in the game. When Donovan started getting downhill, good things happened. The Jazz converted tough finishes around the rim with the Clippers not having any rim protection. When they began to attack the hoop more, open shots started to come. Bogdonavic had a couple of nice post fadeaways and finishes at the rim. Later in the fourth when the Jazz were up seven, he was able to get some space and knocked down a deep three to give the Jazz a double-digit lead.
Clippers going deep in the bench
The clippers played 11 players in the first 15 minutes. Demarcus Cousins entered the game for the first time in this entire postseason. Zubac brought the intensity off the bench with a couple blocks and keeping plays alive. Kennard came off the bench and brought immediate scoring. Ty Lue definitely had a few tricks up his sleeve. If the reserves play this well for the Clippers, they are almost impossible to beat.
One of the keys to the game was making someone not named Kawhi beat the Jazz. The Clippers answered that call with a 27-11 advantage in bench points in the first half. The second half was a different story. The reserves came back to earth for the Clippers. Those open shots they were hitting early weren’t going in throughout the second half. This made it much easier for the Jazz to get stops and build a lead.
Mike Conley is a bigger loss than Serge Ibaka
Injuries are a big issue on both sides, but it’s clear to see Mike Conley is more important to the Jazz than Serge Ibaka is to the Clippers. The Clippers were able to plug in guys like Zubac and Cousins to give them good minutes. However, the Jazz don’t really have anyone to replace a guy like Conley. Clarkson and Mitchell are the only two that can really get a bucket at any time in isolation. If Conley misses any more time, it will continue to be a major storyline in this series.
Third Quarter Dominance
Donovan Mitchell started the third quarter with a strong take to the hoop. It was followed by two nasty step-back threes that immediately got the crowd going. He scored the first 10 points. That ignited a run that caused a timeout from Lue. Mitchell continued his dominance in the third while the Clippers couldn’t make a shot. Thanks to Leonard and some very tough shotmaking the Clippers stayed afloat for the time being. An O’Neale transition layup gave the Jazz their first lead since 12-11 in the first quarter. Vivint Arena was rocking. The Jazz went on a 32-19 in the third to tie the game at the end of the third quarter.
Donovan Mitchell is a Superstar
Mitchell did not start game one the way he wanted to. After speaking with Dwyane Wade, Wade 2.0 decided to take over the game. After his third quarter eruption, Mitchell did not slow down at all in the fourth quarter. No matter who the defender was, Mitchell attacked and the Clippers didn’t have an answer for it. He finished with 45 points, three rebounds, and five assists. He also tied Karl Malone for most 40 point playoff games in Jazz history tonight.
The Jazz need more from Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert is way too talented to pretty much disappear in game one of the conference semifinals. At times it was almost easy to forget he was out there, Derrick Favors was bringing much more energy and Gobert struggled offensively against Cousins and Zubac. Gobert only made two baskets and finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. He was outplayed by Ivica Zubac at times. When it mattered most, Gobert came through like he has been all year. Marcus Morris attempted to hit a three and the two-time defensive player of the year came through with the block for the win.
Ultimately, the Jazz take a one game lead in this best of seven. Considering the Jazz outside of Mitchell didn’t play as well as they can, it’s a good thing they were able to pull out this win in game one. Expect more from Leonard and George next game.
Featured image courtesy Spencer Heaps, Deseret News