LOS ANGELES-The past few seasons, the Clippers had bad luck in the playoffs due to injuries to superstars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
This season, the dynamic duo are both healthy and still the Clippers lost the first game of the first round of the playoffs to the Jazz 97-95, but bounced back to win the second game 99-91, both at Staples Center.
The Jazz were fortunate to somewhat steal home-court advantage away from the Clippers by splitting the first two games. When Jazz starting center Rudy Gobert got injured on the first play of the first game, this gave them the motivation needed to win.
“I think it was very motivating considering the fact that he’s a big part of what we do, especially defensively,” said Joe Johnson, who got the buzzer-beater that gave the Jazz the win. “You know, I think we felt and knew that a lot of people probably were counting us out when he went down, but man, we stuck together, fought hard for 48 minutes, we had ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we came out with a win.”
The Jazz didn’t have enough motivation carry over into the second game.Lob City was back in business and the Clippers seemed to regain the energy needed to dominate the Jazz. Griffin had 24 points, Paul had 21 points with 10 assists, and DeAndre Jordan had a double-double, finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
When this trio plays like that, it’s hard to beat them, especially when the Clippers come out of the gate with a 12-point lead and then go into halftime leading 51-42.
“It was big,” Griffin said. “Our spirit was great, and I think it just carried over into the first quarter, with everybody being aggressive…our offensive aggressiveness will carry over to defense.”
“We got a lot of stops early in the game,” Jordan said. “We were able to get out and run in transition an get some easy dunks and post steals for Blake, and then it opens up for our shooters.”
“They played with an intensity and level from the beginning of the game,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It was impressive.”
Jazz star Gordon Hayward led his team with 20 points, but they never led in the game.
“The first quarter is what really got us, and they hit us a little bit, set us back in Game 1, as well,” Hayward said. “We definitely have to be better in the first quarter, but besides the first quarter, we played them pretty even.”
It also helps that Gobert isn’t clogging up the paint. His replacement, Derrick Favors, was effective in Game 1, but fell short in Game 2.
“We got to find other ways to protect the paint,” Snyder said. “That’s the challenge. There’s no sense lamenting his absence. Just got to figure out how to be better.”
The Jazz hope to figure out how to be better before Game 3 in Utah on Friday.
Steven LIeberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. Lieberman has covered entertainment and professional sports, Including the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, for the past 14 years. Among his entertainment work, Lieberman covers concerts, theatre and events.