by Griffin Gamble
The Los Angeles Clippers, with their backs against the wall, responded in Game 3 in a major way. A 132-106 win for the Clippers puts the series at 2-1 in favor of the Utah Jazz. Here’s a look at some things that changed the game and possibly the series moving forward.
Defense on Donovan
The biggest takeaway from game three was the defensive adjustments from the Clippers on superstar Donovan Mitchell. The Clippers finally felt the sense of urgency to try and take Mitchell out of the game the best they could. They started with Kawhi Leonard on him which is already a major challenge, considering Leonard is a two-time defensive player of the year. Aside from that, they also decided whenever Mitchell would try to play one on one they were going to shadow double Mitchell and force the ball out of his hands and force him left. The first quarter it definitely worked. Mitchell went 0/3 and had 0 points.
Mitchell responded in a great way. In the second quarter he rattled off 16 in a row showing off that impressive shotmaking once again. In the second half, the Clippers also went back to the 1-2-2 matchup zone they like to run with their small ball lineup and that has proven to give the Jazz some fits. One way to get them out of that zone is making outside shots.
Clippers shooting finally shows up
The Clippers led the league this year at 41.1 percent shooting from three, but that wasn’t apparent from watching them the first two games. The Jazz defense deserves some credit the first two games, but the Clippers definitely looked more comfortable at home in LA. Paul George had 20 points in the first half and finished with 31 points and six three-pointers. Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum combined to shoot 9-12 from three and the Clippers as a team made 19 from downtown.
When the Clippers are making their shots, it allows for Leonard to get downhill and either finish at the rim or kick the ball out to a confident shooter. Leonard also found his groove throughout the game finishing with 34 points. The superstar duo finally showed up combining for 65 points. In the third quarter Leonard got some good looks around the rim because Batum and others were making shots and making the Jazz defense respect them.
In the third quarter with 3:43 left, the Jazz had whittled down the deficit to eight. Then, with three second left on the shot clock, George hit a ridiculously contested three right over Bogdanovic. It was a momentum shot that Paul George couldn’t buy in the first two games. The Clippers have actually created more “open” threes than the Jazz in this series, and tonight those started to fall.
The Jazz need more from Niang and other role guys
In a pivotal stretch in the fourth quarter with the Jazz trailing by ten, Gobert made a tremendous play one-on-one versus Reggie Jackson. The following possession Niang committed a poor turnover that resulted in a corner three for Kennard. The following play after that he had another turnover and then was pulled from the game.
Niang has been a great role guy for the Jazz all season, so it’s odd to see him be almost unplayable in this series. It’s nice to have the sixth man of the year carry your bench productivity, but Clarkson had all 24 points off the bench in game two and now had 14 of the 16 bench points in game 3 (before garbage time). With guys getting banged up and Conley’s continued absence, the Jazz will need someone else to step up off the bench and make an impact.
The injury bug has been going around all season, and this series is no stranger to that. Conley remained out for game three, Serge Ibaka is out for the season and game three was not kind to the Jazz players dealing with some lingering injuries. Although Bogdanovic and Mitchell were not listed on the injury report, there were definitely some soreness for both of them after game two. Bogdanovic struggled by only going 2-10 from the field and 1-5 from three. He was not great on the defensive end either. He held Leonard to two points in the fourth quarter of game two. However, Leonard seemed to be unfazed by him tonight. An all time great like Leonard is hard to shut down two games in a row, but Bogdonavic’s injury might have had something to do with it.
The story of the night ended up being the health of Donovan Mitchell. He went down late in Game 2 and again in Game 3. At the 7:05 mark, he drove hard to the rim and came down awkwardly on that right foot. He walked back to the locker room area but soon returned to the bench. Shown chatting with Quinn Snyder at around the six minute mark, it looked like the decision was to not risk further injury as the Jazz were down 18 at the time.
Later in the game, Mitchell was shown with his right shoe off flexing that foot, but he gave a thumbs up saying he was okay. He was pictured leaving the game with ice wrapped on his right foot/ankle. Mitchell is one tough dude, so he will be ready in Game 4. It will still be something to monitor going forward.
Featured image courtesy AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill