Each game in a playoff series comes with increasing importance, because, well, there is less time in which to regain lost ground. In other words, allow us to introduce you to the biggest game of this second-round series so far. Read on for a full game preview of Game 5 between the Clippers and the Utah Jazz:
Where: Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
When: 7:00 PM PT
How to Watch: TNT, TNT OT, KEIB AM 1150
Clippers: Reggie Jackson — Paul George — Kawhi Leonard — Marcus Morris Sr. — Nicolas Batum
Jazz: Donovan Mitchell — Joe Ingles — Bojan Bogdanovic — Royce O’Neale — Rudy Gobert
Clippers: OUT — Serge Ibaka (back)
Jazz: QUESTIONABLE — Mike Conley (hamstring)
The Big Picture
. . . is familiar. Didn’t we just do this Game 5, tied 2-2 thing?
Like the first round series against the Mavericks, perhaps even more so, the Clippers seem to have found themselves during Games 3 and 4. The series may be tied, but the Clippers’ wins were more convincing then their counterparts’ — LA’s four-game point differential is plus-31.
Kawhi Leonard, playing at an all-world level, appears to have shaken off Monday’s late tweak of his knee. He’s not listed on the injury report. Where he remains on the spectrum between questionable and full strength remains to be seen and will be critical. The Clippers rise and fall with Kawhi’s performances.
Tyronn Lue has shown, if nothing else, that he is willing to be flexible. His propensity for rotational changes seems diametrically opposed to Doc Rivers’ steadfast loyalty. With four games in the books, Ty’s early tinkerings may actually have been a shrewd way of stealing rest for key players. If so, bravo. Some people — *cough* me *cough* — thought the Clippers would lack the legs for second consecutive 12-round fight. Paul George has eclipsed the 40-minute threshold twice, but Kawhi has yet to. Hopefully, that means the Clippers’ best ball of the series is still to come.
. . . suffered two body blows. Can the Jazz muster a counterpunch?
Donovan Mitchell is gamely keeping the Jazz offense (and his own body) functioning. With Mike Conley out, Mitchell remains his team’s lone (or, at least, best) one-on-one shot creator, a crucial weapon against the Clippers’ switchability. With Conley’s status questionable for tonight, and probably the remainder of this series, it will take two more herculean efforts from Mitchell to push Utah into the conference finals.
Getting more from Jordan Clarkson would help. The Sixth Man of the Year is an inveterate gunner, but he’s Quin Snyder’s best hope for some non-Mitchell isolation juice. Clarkson was much more productive in the two games in Utah. If you subscribe to the conventional wisdom about role players starring at home, tonight’s game could be his imprint on the series.
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