Winning NBA games in the regular season is arduous. Winning games in the playoffs is laborious, and by extension, winning a seven-game series is exacting.
Losing Game 1 and the home-court advantage put the Clippers on notice of how resilient the Jazz will be in the best-of-seven series. Winning Game 2 on Tuesday night revealed to the Clippers how taxing it is to win a playoff game against a formidable foe like the Jazz.
The series is even at 1-1, but it only figures to grow more intense, physical and testing the rest of the way.
“It’s harder because you’re familiar with each other,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday in a conference call on the teams’ off day. “So it makes it harder to score. It makes it hard to game plan.
“It’s harder because Utah is a great defensive team to begin with, so scoring is going to be at a premium for any team. But we’re a good defensive team, which we’ve showed [Tuesday] night. But when you have two teams that have size, two teams that can be great defensively, it makes for a very physical, hard series. So this is going to be a hard series.”
For the Clippers, presumably the series will increase in difficulty because the next two games are in Salt Lake City, starting with Game 3 Friday night and continuing with Game 4 Sunday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Jazz play in front some of the most ferocious fans in the NBA.
But the Clippers have been successful over the years in Salt Lake City, having won nine consecutive games there before that streak was snapped last month.
“The environment doesn’t affect us,” Rivers said. “The crowd’s going to be great. They’re going to be loud. There’s nothing you can do about that. You know that going in to it. But that shouldn’t affect how you play. You just got to have great focus and trust whatever the game plan is and show up to play.
“I’ve always liked visiting crowds. I like the noise. I think that’ll be good for everyone. It definitely won’t hurt your intensity. It will help it. It will make you focus in some ways. I think we should look forward to that challenge.”
In the first two games, Mbah a Moute has had his hands full trying to limit Hayward, but he has held his own as Utah’s best player has averaged 19.5 points on 36.4% shooting, 42.9% from three-point range.
Hayward is averaging 39.5 minutes a game in the series. Mbah a Moute is averaging 36.5.
The two are intertwined on the court just about the entire time the other is playing.
“With Luc, Luc is just a great defender. I think Luc has done a good job with Hayward every moment. He never stops,” Rivers said. “You could have a great game against him defensively and he comes back and he’s the same. Hayward is one of those guys you don’t get to. Like, you’re not going to get to him. You’re not going to make him not want to play against you or play hard. You just have to show up each night and turn into that game and be ready to play him.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner