Utah Jazz analysis: Monday's recipe for victory not sustainable in a series against Clippers

Utah Jazz analysis: Monday's recipe for victory not sustainable in a series against Clippers

The excitement level was high Monday night at Vivint Arena where the Utah Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 114-108, guaranteeing the Jazz a winning season and widening their lead over the Clippers for the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoff race.

The contest, however, showed just how difficult a likely first-round playoff series against the Clippers would be.

The most eye-popping statistic of the night is that the Jazz shot an incredible 14 of 21 from the 3-point line. Only five times this season have they made at least 14 treys in a game, and Monday marked the highest percentage from downtown they’ve shot all year. Their 40 points in the third quarter was the most they’ve scored in a stanza all season.

Yet the Clippers were only down three heading into the fourth quarter, and they were still in the game with 22 seconds left when, appropriately, Joe Johnson put up an awkward prayer from beyond the arc and it was answered to stretch Utah’s lead to nine points.

This is a problem for the Jazz, because offense comes easier for Los Angeles than it does for Utah. The Clippers are seventh in the NBA in scoring at just under 108 points per game (the Jazz are 28th), and they’ve got a ton of weapons.

Starters Chris Paul, JJ Redick and Blake Griffin are all capable of big nights, while backup guard Jamal Crawford has made a career out of feasting on second units and Austin Rivers is coming into his own as an offensive threat. On Monday, Griffin was the only one of the group who didn’t finish in double figures, but the quintet scored 75 points.

Yes, Utah is giving up a league-best 96.6 points per game, but that number jumps up to 99.3 points per contest against Western Conference playoff teams. The Jazz are good at controlling the pace of a game such that they’re comfortable grinding things out when they have to, but doing that in a seven-game series against a very good offensive team would likely become tiresome.

As for Utah offensively, Monday’s 114 points was tied for the fifth-most the team has scored in a game all season. The Jazz were about as smooth offensively as they could possibly be, yet only won by six. The Clippers, for the record, have scored 114 or more points in 24 games this season.

Utah simply doesn’t have the firepower to contend with the Clippers over the course of a series. Gordon Hayward has turned into an excellent scorer, but he hasn’t shown the ability to take over games as easily as a number of Los Angeles players. George Hill is fine, but whether or not he could carry the Jazz down the stretch of a game is uncertain. Rodney Hood and Rudy Gobert are secondary options.

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In reality, Utah probably prefers that the games of a series turn out more like the first two times the teams met this season rather than the outcome Monday night, even if both games resulted in losses. Los Angeles scored just 88 points both times, while the Jazz were awful offensively in both. The course of a seven-game series will likely even things out, but if Utah can somehow manage to keep scoring on the low end, it will make a series victory much more feasible.

In other words, although Monday’s victory may have been fun for the Jazz, the recipe they used to get the win likely won’t be sustainable in the playoffs, especially against the Clippers.

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Published at Tue, 14 Mar 2017 16:55:00 +0000