After a five-year break, the NBA Playoffs returned to Salt Lake City on Friday night. You have to go back two more years before that for the last Jazz playoff win.
Jazz fans were definitely ready to cheer on their team in the Playoffs. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to wait a little while longer to break their seven-year playoff win drought.
The sellout crowd of 19,911 all wore white “Take Note” teeshirts to welcome the Jazz back after splitting the two games in LA. They were loud, and propelled the Jazz to solid start. Gordon Hayward scored 21 points in the first quarter.
Hayward’s 21 points were the most a Jazz player has scored in a playoff quarter in franchise history. Karl Malone previously scored 20 in a quarter way back in 1991. Hayward finished the game with a career-high 40 points.
The Jazz looked to be rolling to an easy win with a raucous crowd behind them. But the Clippers started chipping away. LA closed the gap in the second, then turned it on in the third quarter to put the Jazz on their heels.
Blake Griffin left the game in the second quarter with a toe injury. After Griffin went down, Chris Paul took over for LA. The veteran point guard got hot in the third, and continued to tear the Jazz apart down the stretch in the fourth.
The Clippers went on a 15-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Chris Paul scored the last nine points of that run for LA. Paul finished with 34 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds.
The Jazz didn’t score for nearly six minutes in the fourth. Joe Johnson ended the scoring drought for the Jazz with just under two minutes left in the game. It was too little too late.
Despite having a late chance to tie the game, the Jazz were never able to recover from the six-minute stretch without a point. The loss puts home court advantage back in the hands of the Clippers, with LA up 2-1 in the series. Game four will be on Sunday at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Jazz shot well and spaced the floor better than they did in game two. Their struggles came in defending the pick and roll protecting the paint.
Derrick Favors played a season-high 38 minutes, but looked limited by his knee. He’s been a good defender in his career, but he doesn’t look like himself lately.
The pick and roll is always hard to defend, especially against Chris Paul. Without Gobert to clog the paint, the Jazz have been forced to switch into mismatches.
Games two and three have clearly illustrated Gobert’s impact. Team’s have to completely shift the way they approach their offense when he’s in the game. Without Gobert, the Jazz become and average defensive team at best.
While they’ve been close in the two losses, it’s becoming clear that they need the Defensive Player of the Year candidate to have a real shot in this series. It’s not time to hit the panic button, but the pressure is back on the Jazz.
Gordon Hayward & George Hill
Chris Paul & DeAndre Jordan