Los Angeles Clippers: 3 Takeaways From Tough Game 4 Loss

Apr 23, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson (6) and Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) celebrate after a Johnson three-point basket during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4 at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah Jazz won the game 105-98. Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports.

The Los Angeles Clippers reclaimed home-court advantage in Game 3 and looked to build on that entering Game 4. However, they instead lost ground after a 105-98 defeat that tied the series at 2-2.

The Los Angeles Clippers managed to win their first game in Utah in this series and took a 2-1 advantage heading into Game 4.

Although Blake Griffin‘s absence was undoubtedly a huge blow, the Clippers kept the game close for most of the night and held an 87-80 lead with 7:37 left in the game.

Unfortunately for Clippers fans, the Utah Jazz fought back to win as they controlled the game down the stretch. Their 105-98 victory knotted the series up at 2-2 as both teams head back to Los Angeles.

Although the Clippers will not return to Los Angeles with a 3-1 series lead, there were some positive signs from this game in addition to the negatives.

The Clippers will have to build on those successes and look to shore up some of their weak points from this game as they prepare for a series defining Game 5 at Staples Center.

Apr 23, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; LA Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) shoots the ball over Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) during the third quarter in Game 4 at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah Jazz won the game 105-98. Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports.

No. 3: Jamal Crawford Breaks His Slump

Jamal Crawford had a rough start to the series against the Utah Jazz. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year did not live up to those standards for the Los Angeles Clippers in his first three games. Crawford shot 32.4 percent from the floor and missed all 11 of his shots from behind the arc.

Game 4 was a completely different story for J-Crossover. He put up 25 points on just 13 shots and made five of his seven attempts from deep. He started the game with five consecutive makes and put pressure on Utah’s defense from start to finish.

The absence of Blake Griffin will require other Clippers to fill the void he left behind on offense. Jamal Crawford showed Sunday night that he will be one of the players that will try to fill that gap.

If he can play more like he did Sunday night and less like he did to start the series, the Clippers going forward might be able to keep the game close when Chris Paul hits the bench.

Apr 23, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) blocks a shot by LA Clippers center Marreese Speights (5) during the second quarter in Game 4 of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports.

No. 2: The Return of Rudy Gobert (and Derrick Favors)

The Los Angeles Clippers were already in trouble in the frontcourt with Blake Griffin out. That issue was compounded when the Utah Jazz announced that Rudy Gobert would return for Game 4.

In spite of his hyperextended knee, Gobert had a fantastic game that helped Utah both when he was on the floor and when he was on the bench.

Gobert finished with 15 points and made all six of his field goal attempts, and looked pretty healthy while doing so:

Gobert also added 13 rebounds in just less than 24 minutes of playing time. On the defensive end, he limited the Clippers to nine makes inside of five feet on 18 attempts, per NBA.com. For reference, the Clippers were 64-of-87 in that range during the first three games.

He also held DeAndre Jordan to 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Gobert’s return did not just mean the return of a solid offensive center with a chance at winning Defensive Player of the Year. Gobert’s return also made that Derrick Favors could return to his usual role coming off the bench.

After a poor performance as a starter in Game 3, Favors put up 17 shots on 10 shots and six rebounds in his 24 minutes of playing time. The return of Gobert also meant that Quin Snyder did not have to roll out any of the disastrous lineups with Boris Diaw at center.

The Clippers will have to contend with Gobert for the rest of this series. This does not appear to be a Jusuf Nurkic situation; Gobert was not at full strength, but he was close enough that the Jazz will keep him out there barring an unexpected setback.

While Gobert’s return will change the series more than anything else that happened Sunday night, he still could not wrest the top spot on this list from Utah’s crunch time assassin.

Apr 23, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson (6) shoots the ball over LA Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute (12) during Game 4 at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports.

No. 1: Iso Joe Reigns Once More

Joe Johnson broke the hearts of the Los Angeles Clippers with a Game 1 buzzer-beater. He came back with even more ferocity in Game 4, as he single-handedly carried the Utah Jazz to victory down the stretch.

Johnson finished the game with 28 points on 17 shots, but did most of his damage in the fourth quarter. After the Clippers took an 87-80 lead with 7:37 remaining, Johnson scored 11 straight points for Utah.

That scoring outburst came as part of an 11-4 Jazz run as they took the lead on yet another clutch shot from Iso Joe:

The  Clippers clamped down on Johnson after this play, but that did not stop him from controlling the game. He proceeded to assist on three of Utah’s next four shots–all three were triples–and make the game-icing free throws with 18 seconds remaining.

The Clippers will have a better shot at defending Johnson in Game 5 as Austin Rivers is expected to return, per The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Nonetheless, Johnson once again took over in the fourth quarter and left the Clippers with another crushing defeat.

They will have to hope that Rivers can keep Iso Joe at bay. If not, the Clippers may not be able to win two of the next three games and advance to the second round.

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