Brad Rock: A Jazz playoff preview with a sorry ending
SALT LAKE CITY — If Monday’s Jazz-Clippers game was a preview of the first round of the NBA playoffs, this might be a good time to plan an April trip to Hawaii. Book it for sometime in mid- to late April and call it good.
The Jazz team that was taking names on the road last week is gone like Super Bowl leftovers. In this case, there was no inspiring comeback. The Jazz fell behind by 29 and lost by 16. It started out chippy but ended with a yawn.
The team that bullied Atlanta and bull-rushed New Orleans is already on All-Star break — a game too soon. After going on a two-game road win streak, Utah is now on a three-game decline.
“That’s why I’m always reluctant to talk about winning streaks,” coach Quin Snyder glumly noted.
Losing streaks? He’s fine talking about that.
“We showed what a bad team looks like,” he said.
If you’re looking for what — before the game — Snyder called “a barometer” of where the team is, the forecast is for thunderstorms and dropping temperatures.
“We can talk about being better and being relevant, but at this point we’re relevant — no more than that,” Snyder said postgame.
The Jazz’s field goal percentage was all the evidence needed to back up his remarks. Succeeding on one of three attempts is only relevant in baseball.
While Snyder said it was just one game, he wasn’t going to waste the moment downplaying his disappointment.
“If there’s something that should have been held back, it shouldn’t have been tonight,” he said.
This was considerably different from Snyder’s assessment prior to the game. The natural connection was that the Clippers and Jazz could end up meeting in the playoffs. In winning, the Clippers surpassed the Jazz for fourth place in the conference and potential home-court advantage in the playoffs.
“You may look back and say wow, that was a pivotal game,” the Jazz coach said beforehand.
He can only hope not.
“We’ve had a couple of games that were similar with Memphis and OKC that you can draw some parallels,” he said. “I think this is a good barometer game for us.”
But for the second straight home game, the Jazz shot like they were on a faraway planet.
The second matchup of the season with the Clippers started off just as it should for teams sizing each other up for the future. The tone began somewhere between irritable and hostile. Though nobody threw a punch, everyone threw a dirty look.
The mood wasn’t convivial in the least. Rudy Gobert — the snubbed All-Star — drove the lane, only to meet a rude block by DeAndre Jordan the All-Star. Joe Ingles was whistled for shoving, followed shortly by a George Hill technical.
During a second-quarter timeout, an official had a chat with Boris Diaw and Blake Griffin, appearing to warn them against getting too enthusiastic. Soon after came a Jordan dunk that rattled windows in Tarzana.
Diaw was shoved underneath the hoop in the third quarter and Griffin dunked on the other end as the lead surged from 11 to 29. When a game ends with Jeff Withey, Raul Neto, Trey Lyles, Alec Burks and Dante Exum on the court, it’s either great or disastrous news.
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The “playoff preview” didn’t bode well for any springtime continuation for Utah. Los Angeles is now 2-0 against the Jazz this year, winning by 13 in the first meeting. Among the four teams clumped in the middle of the standings, the Jazz now have reason to worry. They are a combined 2-5 against L.A., Memphis and Oklahoma City.
The absence of future hall of famer Chris Paul didn’t make a dent in the Clipper attack.
“Tonight,” Snyder said, “we didn’t compete.”
With the All-Star break this weekend, the Jazz are tired in both head and body. So is every other team. Fans didn’t want to hear about it, most of them leaving Vivint Arena in the third quarter.
By game’s end, the only sound in town was the Jazz retreating in the distance.
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Published at Tue, 14 Feb 2017 05:55:00 +0000