The Clippers take on the Jazz in Game 2 of the second round just two days after losing a tough one in Utah. With rough shooting and tired legs defeating the Clips in Game 1, can the Clippers rebound on the road? Keep reading for a full preview of Clippers-Jazz Game 2.
Where: Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: 7:00 PST
How to Watch: ESPN
Projected Starting Lineups
LA Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum
Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanović, Royce O’Neal, Rudy Gobert
LA Clippers: Serge Ibaka – OUT (Back Spasms)
Utah Jazz: Mike Conley – QUESTIONABLE (Hamstring Strain)
The Big Picture
Despite proving the ability to overcome an 0-2 deficit in the first round, the LA Clippers will certainly be approaching Thursday’s matchup in Utah with a unique level of urgency. Throughout the playoffs, coach Ty Lue has shown his willingness to make the proper adjustments, and all signs point to that being the case again in Game 2.
In his media session on Wednesday, Ty Lue indicated that both DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Beverley will likely see more minutes in Game 2 than they did in Game 1. With both players not only playing well in Game 1, but also providing more of what the Clippers need than the alternatives do, Ty Lue’s comments provide a much needed reason for optimism.
The decision to play Pat Bev more than the 6 minutes he saw in Game 1 is easy. During the regular season, the Clippers had a +15.8 NTRG vs. the Utah Jazz in the 76 minutes that Bev was on the floor. This mark dropped to -27.9 when Pat was off the floor. The reason for this discrepancy is directly tied to Pat Bev’s ability to limit Utah’s offensive attack. With an offense centered around dynamic guard play, Patrick Beverley’s defensive proficiency is one of the most valuable assets on the Clippers’ roster in a series against Utah.
During the regular season, Donovan Mitchell was just 4/14 from the field in the 55 possessions he was defended by Pat Bev. In a postgame interview following the Clippers’ 116-112 victory over the Jazz in February, Donovan Mitchell credited Pat Bev for making his life difficult, stating that he is First Team All-Defense for a reason.
With Mitchell dropping 45 points in Game 1, it is clear that the Clippers must do a better job of containing him if they want to even up this series. Ty Lue recognizes this, and is seemingly prepared to deploy Patrick Beverley for a much more significant role in Game 2 than he had in Game 1.
The Boogie Cousins situation is much more complicated and much less ideal than the Clippers’ increased reliance on Pat Bev. Cousins, who has been admittedly effective in his time with the Clippers, is undeniably limited on the defensive end. With Utah’s crafty guard play, they made it a point of emphasis in Game 1 to involve Boogie in every defensive action he was on the floor for. With that being said, the Clippers have very limited options with Serge Ibaka out.
Despite Boogie’s defensive insufficiencies, he is the Clippers’ only true backup big man with Ibaka sidelined. Against a Utah team that features Rudy Gobert and Derick Favors, there is certainly a benefit to having a true backup center available. If Boogie is efficient offensively and on the glass the way he was in Game 1, Ty Lue’s plan to play him more in Game 2 will likely work out just fine.
The Utah Jazz did not get the Western Conference’s 1-seed by mistake. While they did not experience the poor injury luck of other top Western Conference teams, they were certainly no fluke. During the regular season, the Jazz were the NBA’s only team with a top-5 offense and top-5 defense.
Much has been made of the stretch that Utah put together in the first half that saw them miss 20-straight field goal attempts, but due to the game’s outcome, the talking point surrounding that statistic has been centered more on the Clippers’ inability to capitalize rather than Utah’s uniquely cold shooting stretch. This analysis in fair, considering the Jazz are unlikely to put together such a stretch any time soon; however, it is less indicative of the talent discrepancy in this series than some have made it seem.
As talented as the Utah Jazz are, they narrowly escaped with a 3-point victory in a game where they got 45 from Mitchell, and the Clippers got just four baskets from Paul George, one three pointer on nine attempts from Marcus Morris, and a very poorly coached 2nd half from Ty Lue. All of these things are part of the game, and each of them could potentially happen again, but all four in combination with one another should probably result in a much more lopsided score than the one we saw in Game 1.
All things considered, the Clippers should be much more equipped for a win in Game 2 than they were in Game 1. With the rest disadvantage, a loss was certainly likely, but the way the game ended has allowed that fact to become an afterthought.
While the rest disadvantage facing the Clippers in Game 1 was real and significant, it does not excuse or explain the tactical mistakes that were made by the coaching staff. The rotations, game management, and overall urgency from Ty Lue in the 2nd half was questionable at best; however, he has proven the ability throughout these playoffs to make the proper adjustments, and this should provide Clipper fans with a level of peace that was not existent last year. As mentioned throughout the preview, Ty Lue has already indicated an awareness of the necessary adjustments needed for Game 2 against the Jazz, and if those are combined with a sharper performance from LAC’s top rotation players, the Clippers should be heading back to LA tied 1-1.
That about does it for this preview of Game 2 between the Clippers and Jazz. Stick around as always for the game thread in the comments below!