The Clippers fought hard, but an off shooting night doomed them to a loss against a hard-fighting Jazz team that received an out-of-body performance from Mike Conley. Check out the full recap of the Clippers’ game against the Jazz below.
The game started off as a defensive battle, with neither team really able to get much traction on offense. Rather than the freewheeling, ball movement heavy offense of games prior, the Clippers decided to go on more of a Doc Rivers approach and focus on mismatches, in this case getting small guards switched onto Kawhi Leonard. Unfortunately, he was unable to capitalize, and nobody but Paul George looked in the rhythm of the game. The bench was not able to provide much a spark either – while Ivica Zubac had a couple nice defensive plays, he and Lou were off on offense. As the quarter dragged to completion, the Jazz got going on offense against the Clippers’ three-guard bench unit, with Conley triples putting them up 12.
The second quarter started no better, with two more quick Jazz threes putting the Clippers down 18. The Clippers could not score or really even create open looks, leading to Ty Lue re-inserting Kawhi Leonard and the starters. At that point, the game shifted. The Clippers locked down on defense, forcing repeated Jazz turnovers and desperate shots. While their own offense continued to be stuck in the mud, they were able to chip away ever so slowly at the lead. Then, finally, with around 4 minutes to go in the half, everything came together, and the spectacular defense resulted in a few fastbreak opportunities that cut the lead to one. However, after a timeout, the Jazz went on an 8-0 run to close the half against the Clippers’ tired starters, bringing their lead back up to nine.
The Clippers’ start to the 3rd quarter was every bit as their start to the 2nd – missed jumpers and three Jazz triples doubled the Jazz lead to give them another 18 point edge. Once again, there seemed to be a lid on the basket for the Clippers, with every guy on the team missing open, easy looks. Lue turned to the bench again, and Luke Kennard was able to hit a couple threes, giving the Clips a breath of life. Unfortunately, the Clippers’ defense sagged at this point, with Derrick Favors torching them via offensive rebounds and dunks. Despite battling hard, the Clippers could not close the gap, and the Jazz lead was 19 entering the final frame.
Lou Williams was finally able to get going a bit to start the 4th, especially off pick and roll action with Zu. Paul George also made got to the line a couple times, helping chip into the deficit further. The Clippers defense tightened up again, and this time saw the benefit of two midrange jumpers from Kawhi to get the lead down to 10. Just as previously, however, open missed threes by George and Ibaka were killers that allowed the Jazz to stay ahead. Beverley three-ball got the lead down to seven, and then Leonard free throws brought it to five. A key turning point happened here, as Favors got rejected on a dunk (though it seemed like Ibaka goaltended anyway), only for Mitchell to get the offensive rebound and three-point play. The Clippers continued to fight, and battle, and chip away, but missed big shot after big shot, with an Ibaka three that could have tied the game with 2:15 to go being the biggest. Paul George finally got fire with a couple last-minute threes, but it was not enough, and the Clippers fell 106-100 when the final buzzer rang. Ultimately, that is the recap of this Clippers’ loss against the Jazz: so close, yet so far.
- Impressive Effort: While the Clippers lost, this was a game that counts as a true morale victory. Despite an off shooting performance (more on that in a bit), the Clippers, especially the starters, continued to fight and battle rather than laying over. They cut 18-point leads down to 1 (in the late 2nd quarter) and 2 (late 4th quarter), but just could not get over the hump. Bad shooting nights happen, but effort and energy can be controlled, and the Clippers gave a ton of both tonight. This type of fight and grit was frequently lacking last season, and it was great to see tonight in a game where the Clippers could have easily given up. The Jazz are a tough team, as mentioned elsewhere in this recap, but the Clippers gave them all they could handle.
- Paul George Monstrous Defensively: Paul George was just 6-22 from the field, but this was perhaps one of his best games as a Clipper. He made five threes to boost his efficiency, including some huge ones late to keep the Clippers alive, and also got to the line eight times when his shot wasn’t falling. More importantly than all of that was his defense. Tonight we saw All-Defense Paul George, and it was spectacular. He was a menace off the ball, collecting an incredible six steals and making several other deflections. On ball, he hounded Donovan Mitchell, who scored a mere 15 points on 6-14 shooting and attempted only one free throw. Every Clippers’ run was keyed by George, who also chipped in eight rebounds and four assists. Sure, he had five turnovers, but this was the exact type of game they need form him when his shot isn’t falling.
- Off Shooting Night: The Clippers closed the game shooting under 39% from the field, and that was actually a major improvement on their 31% shooting from the first half. Simply put, the Clippers could not make any shots inside the arc tonight. Lou missed midrange floating jumpers that are his bread and butter, George and Leonard missed layups, and Ibaka and Zu blew some easy-ish floaters near the basket. There was just a lid on all non-threes, and even then the Clippers missed a ton of wide open threes. The execution was there – the Clippers moved the ball well, and only had eight turnovers – the shots just weren’t dropping. Those types of games happen in the NBA, and there’s no shame in losing on nights when they do, especially against a team as good as the Jazz.
- Three Guard Lineup Untenable Defensively: Ty Lue has gone to the three guard Lou Williams-Reggie Jackson-Luke Kennard quite a bit so far this season, and while it’s played well offensively at times, it’s also been mostly a disaster defensively. It certainly was in this game, where the lineups’ atrocious defense is what enabled the Jazz to increase the lead by 12 in the late 1st and early 2nd quarters. Lue did cut the lineup short, not playing Jackson after his three minute stint, but the damage was done. I really like that Lue experiments and tries different units, but the three-guard lineup will probably be unplayable against good teams. Lou Williams, a noted defensive issue, has actually probably been the best of those guys on defense this year – which is really, really bad. Jackson has played much better on offense the past few games, but the defense is a real problem, and since Lou and Luke are better than him on offense (and defense), playing him doesn’t make a ton of sense unless he’s replacing one of them. For as inconsistent as Terance Mann has been, I’d be interested in seeing him get more extended and consistent run to see if he can find himself a role and spot in the rotation.
Well, that’s it for this recap of the Clippers’ loss against the Jazz. Give your thoughts on the game below!