Utah Jazz take on LA Clippers in first playoff game since 2012

Modesto Morganelli
Aprile 16, 2017

Thanks to David Stern and the rest of the board of the NBA, Chris Paul was gift-wrapped to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011. However, the Clippers' recent hot streak suggests that are peaking at the ideal time.

Asked if seeing Gobert go down motivated the team, Johnson replied, "I think it was very motivating considering the fact that he's a big part of what we do, especially defensively". Blake Griffin, who finished with 15 points, had eight in the spurt, while Redick and Chris Paul added five each.

Gobert sprained his left knee on the game's first play when he banged knees with Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute, leaving the Jazz without their 7-foot-1 center who averaged 14.0 points and 12.8 rebounds during the regular season.

The matchup between Gobert and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was expected to be a key to the best-of-7 series.

"Ingles has played terrific all year and he's shooting threes", Rivers told reporters in a pre-game interview.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers will be kicking themselves that they weren't able to capitalize on the absence of Gobert. If the Clippers arenot primed the Jazz might look to pack second round experience into this year's agenda. An imposing presence inside for Utah, Gobert led the National Basketball Association with 2.6 blocked shots per game during a breakout season that saw him average 14 points and 12.8 rebounds. If they can stay healthy in the first round, they should put up a good fight. Things got so weird for them that they elected to not call a timeout on the final possession, or get the ball in their leading scorer's (Gordon Hayward) hands. Sure, not one player on their current roster was with Utah during the 2010 postseason.

In the buildup to Game 1, Snyder fielded two days of questions about how he and his team would respond to playoff pressure. The Jazz were 36-42-4 against the spread this season as well. All but one of the games was decided by double digits; the lone Jazz win came in Utah by six points.

The Jazz had a great year and this trend should continue. And that's without even considering possible new contracts for Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood, whose contracts are both up in 2018. If any of these players is severely limited, this could be a short series for Utah. In the other, there is a young Utah Jazz team with an average age of 26.5-years-old who haven't made the playoffs since 2012.

Another major dynamic to keep an eye on is the play of Hayward.

"I was just coming off a screen", Mbah a Moute said after the game when asked about the collision with Gobert.

For the Utah Jazz, Hayward can opt out of his contract this summer - which he will do to sign a max contract - and George Hill will be an unrestricted free agent after the playoffs. As previously noted, it's not yet clear when Rivers will return from his hamstring injury.

"We're peaking at the right time", backup guard Jamal Crawford said. However, with the Clippers hitting their stride, and Griffin playing particularly well, it may be hard for the Jazz to keep pace with Los Angeles.

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