Los Angeles Clippers: Jazz defense 'poses a problem'

Los Angeles Clippers: Jazz defense 'poses a problem'

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — For the Los Angeles Clippers, victory in the first round of the NBA playoffs means imitating their opponent in one aspect while contradicting that same adversary in another.

The Clippers hope to emulate the Jazz’s defensive success — and use it to sabotage the visitors’ offense — when the teams begin their series Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who guided the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship and took his current squad to its sixth successive playoff berth this season, views the Jazz’s defense as the heart of that team.

“No matter how much preparation you do or how much they do, they’re still going to be a great defensive team,” Rivers said. “That’s not going to go away.”

The Jazz led the NBA in fewest points allowed per game (96.8), ranked second in fewest fast-break points (10.5) and second-chance points (10.6) allowed per game and shared second place with the Memphis Grizzlies by permitting the opposition to shoot just 44.3 percent from the field.

“They play great team defense,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “It sort of reminds me of San Antonio with Bruce Bowen and Tony (Parker) and (Manu) Ginobili.”

That defense complements the Jazz’s strategy of enforcing a deliberate tempo.

“When you play in the playoffs and the game slows down just a tad, it makes a great defensive team even greater,” Rivers said. “That poses a problem for anybody.”

The Clippers plan to concentrate their defensive focus on point guard George Hill and 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert.

“George is really crafty off the ball screen,” Paul said. “You really can’t speed him up. Some guys, you try to speed up but George plays at a nice pace. He takes the shots when they’re there and he knows when to find guys.”

Gobert, meanwhile, provides a direct challenge to DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers’ 6-foot-11 center.

“Rudy’s been great all year,” Jordan said. “He’s created a lot of offense with his rolls and his screen-setting abilities. He controls the paint and he makes it tough to come in there because he’s trying to block every shot.”

Stopping Gobert and the rest of the Jazz involves increasing the pace by converting defense — especially defensive rebounds — into offense.

“They run their offense for the entire clock,” Jordan said. “We’ve got to be ready to play 24 seconds of defense and end a possession with a rebound. We’ve got to control the paint. We can’t let those guys get offensive rebounds. Then, we’d be able to get out and run.

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“But to keep our pace up, we’ve got to get stops. We can’t run if we take the ball out every time.”

Rivers believes his team must perform at least as well defensively as it did during the season’s first month, when the Clippers went 14-2, to have a chance of beating the Jazz.

“We have to. We definitely have to,” Rivers said. “If we don’t, we’re not winning. That’s the bottom line. If we’re not a great defensive team like we were earlier in the year — or even better — then we cannot be successful.”

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Published at Sat, 15 Apr 2017 00:35:00 +0000