Apr 28, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; LA Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) controls the ball defended by Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto (25) during the fourth quarter in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
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The Utah Jazz will take their series against the Clippers to seven games after losing in Game 6. What caused them to lose on Friday?
With an opportunity to close the series out early at home, the Utah Jazz fell to the Los Angeles Clippers by a score of 98-93 in Game 6, meaning the series will go to a Game 7 to be played in LA.
Unlike in Game 5, where the Clippers stormed out to an early lead, the Jazz were the ones to step on the accelerator early, leading by as many as nine in the first quarter, but a 7-0 Los Angeles run allowed them to bring it back within two before the end of the period.
Apr 28, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) tries to stop LA Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) from driving to the basket during the second quarter in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
The Bench Battle
Although the Clippers have the best player in the series in Chris Paul, one advantage many gave the Jazz was their depth and strong bench play.
They had talented players like Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors and Joe Johnson to bring in, while Los Angeles is relying on streaky shooters like Jamal Crawford to carry the team while the stars are off the floor.
However, in Game 6, these roles more or less reversed. The Jazz had just three players finish in double figures for scoring, while the Clippers had five score 10 or more points. Austin Rivers rebounded well from a poor Game 5 showing to put up 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Jamal Crawford also had a nice game, scoring 12 points and finishing a team-high +19. Even the notoriously offensively-limited Luc Mbah a Moute got into the act, scoring 13 points on eight shots all while once again holding Hayward to a subpar shooting day.
Backup center Marreese Speights scored nine points over an eight-minute stretch, tormenting the less-mobile Derrick Favors for three-pointers and offensive rebounds.
On the Jazz side, Favors was a huge disappointment, making just one of his six shots and playing only 14 minutes. He certainly wasn’t the only one to fall short of expectations, as playoff savior Joe Johnson also had somewhat of an off game, shooting 3-for-9.
Last two games with Joe Johnson on the floor Jazz are shooting 36.6% and 25.6% from 3pt with offensive rating of 92.5
The Jazz will have to hope that their bench will be able to bounce back for Game 7, as there’s not much else the main pieces will be able to do against a formidable Clippers defense wound up to stop them.
Apr 28, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) dribbles the ball against LA Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) during the fourth quarter in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Matchups And Making Shots
The Clippers made a fairly significant lineup change in Game 6, swapping Marreese Speights for Austin Rivers among the starters, while the Jazz remained with their group that started Game 5.
This meant that the Clippers were running out three players under 6’4″ in Paul, J.J. Redick, and Rivers. In contrast, the Jazz were starting the 6’2″ George Hill and 6’8″ Hayward and Joe Ingles at their corresponding spots.
Given the poor defender that Redick is, the Clippers had to hide him somewhere, opting to match him up with power forward Boris Diaw.
Although this further exacerbates the size discrepancy, it was a smart move in that Diaw has not been one to hurt opposing teams on offense thus far, averaging only 3.5 shot attempts per game.
When they did throw the ball to him in the post, the Clippers would bring over a double team, which would momentarily leave someone open, usually on the perimeter.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, these shots just weren’t falling for them on Friday.
Utah as a team made just seven of their 26 (27 percent) three-point attempts, with Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles combining to miss all of their nine shots from long range. Only Gordon Hayward hit multiple three-pointers with three.
Ingles in particular has had a rough last few games as the Clippers have neutralized him by simply not allowing him good looks from three-point range and trapping his pick and rolls.
Even Rudy Gobert, who rarely attempts a shot outside of the restricted area, missed half of his 10 shots, going 5-for-10 from the charity stripe as well.
The fact that the Clippers were able to hold their own defensively when going small meant that they were that much harder to keep up with on the other end. Utah will need to hit their shots if they want to win Game 7, especially given the way Los Angeles is playing them.
Apr 28, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; LA Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) dribbles the ball while being guarded by Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the second quarter in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Getting Figured Out
Over the course of a six-game series, both teams make adaptations, as was the case with Rudy Gobert and Blake Griffin’s respective injuries. However, these adjustments also take place in more nuanced ways inside of the game.
Utah doesn’t have the luxury of any prolific isolation scorers, so the Clippers have found success by playing tight on any shooters and making facilitators not used to finishing beat them on drives.
Gordon Hayward has struggled from the field in this series as a result of the pressure to score, again shooting under 50 percent in Game 6.
For the few players like Joe Johnson who actually can win one-on-one battles, the Clippers are fond of throwing double teams at them in the last few seconds of the shot clock, forcing a contested shot or rushed pass.
On the defensive side of things, the Jazz tend to play the pick and roll conservatively, with the big man hanging back and forcing a midrange jumper. However, there is perhaps no one in the league better than Paul at taking this exact shot.
Here, he snakes around the pick and fins enough space for a fallaway jumper he’s perfectly comfortable with shooting.
When Gobert did come out to stymie the jumper, a passing lane opened up that more often than not led to a DeAndre Jordan dunk. Notice how no perimeter defender is able to help off the Clippers’ shooters.
It would be a fundamental philosophy change for Quin Snyder to order his bigs to play the screen more aggressively, so if they remain resistant to change in that area, they will simply have to hope for Paul to stop missing.