by Daniel Olsen
The Utah Jazz took the first two games in Salt Lake City. The Los Angeles Clippers have protected their home court as well. It’s not a series until a team wins on the other team’s home court. The Jazz have an opportunity to do that tonight. It’s time to take a look at how that could happen.
Return of Conley
Conley has been questionable throughout this whole series. That needs to change. He helped win a few games over the Clippers in the regular season. That could definitely translate to the playoffs.
Conley scored a game high 33 points in a six-point win over the Los Angeles Clippers on New Year’s Day. A month later, the Jazz were the hottest team in the NBA. He rested on the first night of a back-to-back in Los Angeles. Apparently, he picked the wrong night to rest. The Jazz bulldozed the Clippers without his services. Wen he returned, the Jazz lost to the Clippers by four points. He had 16 points in that loss.
If Conley is available and is remotely close to himself, the Jazz have a great chance to steal this game and go up 3-1 in this series.
Crash the Boards
When the Jazz win the rebound battle, they usually win the game. With the exception of Game 2, the Jazz have won every game against the Clippers this year in which they grabbed more rebounds. They were only slightly out-rebounded once (37-36) in a win in Game 2. They lost Game 3 while recording three less rebounds than the Clippers.
The Jazz have to grab at least as many rebounds as the Clippers to win this game. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a great shooting night. They had one of those on Saturday from three as they made 19 from deep. The problem was that the Clippers also made 19 threes and had way more field goal attempts than the Jazz. 16 turnovers didn’t help the Jazz either. They just didn’t have nearly enough possessions or shot attempts to win the game.
If the Jazz clean the glass from the tip, then they will be a tough team to beat. An increase in tenacity could be another turning point in this series. The Clippers have become the team to beat as of now. It’s up to the Jazz to either put that to bed or let the Clippers keep building momentum.
Play like the better team
The Clippers on paper have a better team. Kawhi Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP and Paul George is a seven-time NBA All-Star. The Jazz have young but talented All-Star players in Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Conley received his first All-Star bid this year.
The Jazz played like the better team at home. Championship teams need to find a way to win on the road. The Jazz did it against the Grizzlies. They now need to find a way to do the same to the Clippers. With the number one overall seed in the NBA, the Jazz need to act like they are still the best team in basketball. No matter the circumstances, the Jazz need to give a greater effort than they did on Saturday to win this series. They need to get in the heads of the Clippers.
The greatest weakness of the Clippers is when they get in their own heads. Their franchise has never made it to the Western Conference Finals. They nearly accomplished that feat last year, but instead blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets.
Prediction: If the Jazz capitalize on all three keys, they will win big. If they capitalize on just two, it’s a toss-up. If they capitalize on just one or less, it will be a solid Clippers win and the series will shift back to Salt Lake City at two games even. For the sake of optimism, the Jazz will capitalize and win Game 4 with a final score of 120-113.
Updates: With the news of Conley being out for Game 4, expect this to be a close game the Jazz can win if they play like they did without Conley in the first two games. Make sure to vote on our Twitter poll today to let us know if you think the Jazz can win without Conley tonight.