Playoff Push: Clippers Even Series with Utah Jazz

Playoff Push: Clippers Even Series with Utah Jazz

by Griffin Gamble

The Los Angeles Clippers took control early in Game 4 and didn’t look back. They won 118-104 over the Utah Jazz and tie up the series at two games apiece. The Jazz started slow offensively and were not able to overcome that. It’s time look at some major turning points in Game 4.

Clippers smothering defense

The Clippers set the tone defensively right out of the gate in Game 4. In the first quarter alone, the Clippers tallied four steals and every single shot the Jazz took seemed to be heavily contested. The Jazz only scored 13 in the first quarter thanks to a ridiculous three from Jordan Clarkson with 1:34 left in the first. They finished the quarter just 6-21 from the field and 1-7 from three with six turnovers.

The second quarter wasn’t much prettier for the Jazz. Falling behind by 27 at one point, a flurry by Donovan and Ingles to end the half helped keep the Jazz somewhat in the game. Overall, it was a miserable first half for the Jazz offensively and defensively as they couldn’t buy a bucket for long stretches and were letting the Clippers get whatever look they wanted.

The Jazz finished the half with only six assists and seven turnovers. The 24-point first half deficit would prove to be too much for the Jazz to overcome. Patrick Beverley also brought the defensive intensity and seems to ignite the entire Clippers defense when he is on the floor. The six-foot point guard finished with four blocks and hounded Mitchell all night.

Clippers stay red hot at home

The Clippers have proven to be a much better team at home in this series and the shooting from Game 3 seemed to carry over right into Game 4. In the first half, they scored 68 points and shot exactly 50 from the field and 50 percent from three. Marcus Morris poured in 22 points in the first half. It was almost as many as the entire Jazz team outside of Mitchell (23).

For a guy who was shooting 1-16 from three coming into this game, it’s tough when he goes 5-5 from three in the first half. The Clippers cooled off dramatically in the second half, but they were able to rely on a couple of timely shots to keep their sizable lead afloat. Time will tell if the shooting for the Clippers can travel in this series. If it does, the Jazz could be in serious trouble.

Donovan Mitchell is flat out special

One positive from Game 4 was yet again the play of Donovan Mitchell. In what seemed to be a game in which Mitchell might finally have an off night, he erupted in the second quarter. He had 17 in that quarter and at times was simply trying to will his team back into the game. However, he was without much help. He almost matched the entire rest of his team in scoring in the first half. Mitchell finished with 37 points and recorded his sixth straight playoff game with at least 30 points. This tied the great Karl Malone for the Jazz record of such games.

Jazz fans have known for a while now how great the 24-year-old Mitchell is, but it’s nice for him to be seen in the national spotlight. The Jazz and Mitchell would prefer a win. If he continues to play like this and others can step up, the Jazz can still make a special run. The absence of Mike Conley could really be felt tonight. The Jazz offense felt like it was just giving Mitchell the ball and getting out of the way.

If other guys don’t make their shots or Donovan doesn’t pour in at least 35, then the Jazz won’t win. Conley can really involve everyone else within the offense and provide some tough shot-making of his own to take the load off of Donovan. Part of the reason Gobert hasn’t scored like he did in the first round is due to the absence of Conley. Another positive is that Conley was questionable for this game. Hopefully he can suit up for Game 5.

Third quarter rally

The Jazz came out in the third quarter with some juice. Hitting five of their first six shots, it felt like there was a comeback brewing. However, the Clippers continued to make timely buckets and get out in transition. A Kawhi Leonard steal that led to a Beverley layup with 4:12 left in the third got the Clippers’ lead back to 20 and forced a Jazz timeout. At the time, the Clippers were out-scoring the Jazz 13 to nothing on fast break points. Due to the stingy half-court defense the Clippers were playing, the Jazz really needed to get out in transition more.

Jazz make a run but too little too late

The Jazz went on a major run in the fourth quarter to put some pressure on the Clippers. It was too little too late. It wasn’t in vain though. This frustrating game in a positive way offensively can may over into Game 5 for the Jazz.

The Jazz need more from their big men and rebounding.

Rudy Gobert didn’t take his first field goal attempt until 2:53 left in the third quarter. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has simply been forgotten in this series. A player of Rudy’s caliber can not go missing in a game like this. He finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and only one block. Favors went 1-4 from the field and only had two points and four rebounds. At times, both Gobert and Favors have been outplayed by Zubac.

The Clippers are getting away with playing small ball. In the Game 4 preview, it was mentioned how the Jazz needed to win the rebounding battle. Going into the fourth quarter, they were losing that battle 32-30. The second chance points was also 16 to 1 in favor of the Clippers as the game entered the fourth quarter. When the Clippers are continuing to play small ball and still winning the rebounding battle, that is going to be a problem for the Jazz.

One thing to monitor going forward is the fact that with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard was grimacing after getting fouled and grabbed his right knee. He stayed in the game. When the Clippers increased the lead to 17 with 4:30 left, they took Kawhi out of the game and he did not return. It might not be a big deal, but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward and see if he is on the injury report.

Featured image courtesy Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: