LOS ANGELES-There are no other options left. Win or go home. Life in the postseason without Blake Griffin hasn’t been kind so far to the Los Angeles Clippers. If they blink too long, the Clippers will soon find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to keeping alive this year’s playoff run.
The Utah Jazz took official control of their first round playoff series against the Clippers with a bump and stump 96-92 win at Staples Center. It wasn’t pretty by no stretch of the imagination. Outside of Chris Paul and his 28 points, and J.J. Redick contributing 26 points, it was a cool down period for the Clippers on the offensive end.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, it was not a good look to convert only 29 of 69 shots from the field and to be outrebounded 43-34 on their home floor. The Jazz now lead the series 3-2. For three quarters, the Clippers could not get out of their own way when it came down to making baskets and running a cohesive offensive strategy.
But being bogged down in offense ineptitude would not be an unusual thing when going up against the Jazz. After all, Utah was the top defensive team in the NBA, statistically, all throughout the regular season. This series was going to test the Clippers offensively-with or without Griffin.
With Griffin sitting on the bench in street clothes, the Jazz now seem to have an easier time clamping down on the rest of the Clippers. And this makes it a not fun time for those in Clippers Nation. Griffin brings a whole new load of physicality in the paint that the Clippers are now missing.
But somehow, someway, if they are to make it to Game 7, someone else from the Clippers will have to bring the pain to the Jazz. Offseason pickup Marreese Speights was supposed be the alternative for opposing teams to deal with but so far has produced lukewarm results.
Speights’ play, if he makes it in coach Doc Rivers’ rotation is critical to the Clippers’ success or failure this postseason. The Clippers need a reliable third scoring wheel they can count on-game in and game out. Badly. Speights is the one player the Clippers have on their roster-besides the superior athletic Griffin-who can dominate the low post with his scoring options coming both from on top from the perimeter and down low.
So far, Speights hasn’t figured prominently through the first five games. And because points are going to come at a premium, Speights and Austin Rivers, are going to simply have to deliver the points with Griffin out. It’s that simple. If you score more points than your opponent, you win. The Clippers couldn’t do that Tuesday night.
They don’t have a choice but to drop a whole lot of points on the Jazz in Game 6 or they’ll be bummed out with a second straight first round exit in as many seasons. The Clippers got with that program when they scored 34 points in the fourth quarter. However, their scoring odyssey in Game 5 through the first three periods is sort of regrettable.
The third quarter in particular, in which the team rallied to score just 15 points, is one period the Clippers probably would like to have as a redo. At the moment, that is neither here or there. Rivers is working on trying to get his team to force a Game 7, and the opportunity to play the Golden State Warriors in the next round.
To do that, though, they’ve got to put points on the scoreboard. It’s almost a given that Paul is bringing his A Game to the table. DeAndre Jordan can be counted on to deliver his usual double-double, and Redick will at least show up. What’s going to get the Clippers over the hump is stepped up play from every other player.
Jamal Crawford’s four points in Game 5 is not going to get it done. Scoring two points as Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton did, won’t cut it, either. It’s time to step up or say bye-bye to a possible deep postseason run.
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”