The Utah Jazz still own the home court advantage, but the Clippers hold the momentum after pulling out a 99-91 victory in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday night at Staples Center. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. The Clippers got the win they needed. It wasn’t all that convincing after an early burst in which they went ahead by 13 points, but all that matters is that the series is now tied at one game apiece as it shifts to Salt Lake City for the next two games. Give Utah credit for hanging around after absorbing an early blow. The Jazz are tough-minded and figure to get even more so playing at home. The question is why can’t the Clippers bring the intensity they showed in the game’s early going consistently? Their uneven play is one of the reasons they’ve never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.
2. The Clippers’ Big Three were exactly that. DeAndre Jordan was finally an offensive juggernaut with Utah counterpart Rudy Gobert sidelined, throwing down four dunks in the first quarter alone on the way to 18 points and 15 rebounds. Chris Paul was dogged on offense and defense, continually coming up with steals to go with his 21 points and 10 assists, and Blake Griffin was strong all the way around with 24 points, five rebounds and a blocked shot. “We had two days of being pretty pissed off, and it’s never fun coming in and watching film after that Game 1 loss,” Griffin said. “We had a good practice [Monday] and I thought our spirit was great, and I think it just carried over into the first quarter, with everybody being aggressive. You know, that’s what we need. Miss or make shots, we have to be aggressive like that. I think our offensive aggressiveness will carry over to defense.”
3. Gobert’s status remains unclear for the balance of the series. He was diagnosed with a bone bruise and a hyperextended left knee after bumping knees with the Clippers’ Luc Mbah a Moute and was oddly spotted dining in the media room before Game 2. “In spite of the injury, his spirits are good,” Jazz Coach Quin Snyder said of Gobert. “From what you kind of felt initially, you feel fortunate that there’s nothing that’s more serious because it certainly looked like that when it happened. As far as exactly where he is in the process, I think it’s hard to say whether he’s going to be back in a week, two weeks. We obviously don’t have him tonight and I don’t think we can anticipate or count on having him until we really know where we’re at and it’s hard to say right now.”
4. Whatever happened to J.J. Redick? He’s been a nonfactor in the first two games of the series, bottoming out with four points on two-for-seven shooting (including misses on both of his three-pointers) in Game 2. In the two games, Redick has averaged 5.5 points on five-for-13 shooting (38.5%) while making only one of five three-pointers. Fellow Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford has also struggled in the series, averaging nine points on seven-for-24 shooting (29.2%) while missing all nine three-pointers he’s tried. What’s more puzzling about Redick is the lack of shot attempts, particularly for a player who usually likes to fire away early in games. “As far as it being sustainable,” Snyder said of the struggles of Redick and Crawford, “probably not, because those guys are such good players. That doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to that” as far as the Jazz’s defensive effort on the perimeter.
5. Now the Clippers need at least one win in what might be the NBA’s most hostile environment. Jazz fans are notoriously nasty, one repeatedly calling Paul Pierce a “dirty old man” when the Clippers came to town last season. They will presumably unleash their full fury on the Clippers during Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday. Paul called Utah fans “true homers” and winced when asked whether he meant it as an insult. “When I go there, I don’t see too many Clippers jerseys,” Paul said. “Like, they really support their team, and it’s always been that.”