The Staples Center was the scene of game two between the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night. The Jazz were looking to take what would be both a shocking and commanding 2-0 lead in their best of 7 series with Los Angeles. The Clippers on the other hand, were looking to bounce back from their last second loss in Game 1, and even up the series before heading on the road, to what will no doubt be a ruckus crowd in Utah. The main story going into the game was the health of Utah’s star center Rudy Gobert. Gobert, who led the NBA in block shots this season (2.64 per game), sat out Tuesday nights game after suffering a bone bruise and hyper extended left knee on the first play of Saturday’s game one. Derrick Favors would get the start in his place, and end up having a decent game with 13 point and seven rebounds, but he couldn’t match Gobert’s presence on the defensive end. The Clippers took the lead on their first bucket of the night, a CP3’s jumper, and never really looked back. They ended up with a 99-91 win, and a series split, but in a game where Utah was missing it’s best player, it felt like they should have been a bit more dominant.
The Game kicked off with a made jumper by Chris Paul, a blocked shot by DeAndre Jordan, and another bucket by Blake Griffin, as Los Angeles came out hot, looking to get the bad taste of Game 1 out of their mouths. The first quarter, and basically the entire first half was the all Clippers. Los Angeles lived in the paint, with Jordan and Griffin having their way in there all night. It was an all around solid performance from the Clippers big three. CP3 put 21 point and 10 assists, Griffin had 24 points and 5 rebounds, while Jordan chipped in with 18 points and 15 rebounds, clearly feasting on a Jazz team that had no inside defensive presence. However Utah never quit, and stayed relatively close to L.A. throughout the entire game. They didn’t get the best performances out of Joe Johnson, who followed up his 21 point game 1 performance with only 13 in game two, or Gordon Heyward, who scored 20 points on 5-15 shooting (33.3%). The first half was dominated by The Clippers’ bigs, as Chris Paul was in a bit of foul trouble, but he’d make his presence felt in the second half.
The third quarter saw Utah go on a bit of a run and cut into the Clipper lead, getting it to as close as 3 points (55-52) at the 7:31 mark. Every time Utah went on a run though, The Clippers had answer. After a quiet first half, Chris Paul took charge of his team in the third quarter. When Utah got close, it was CP3 who bumped the lead back up to eight with a three point basket, a steal, and the ensuing lay up. The Clippers would keep the lead at around 10 points from that point forward and end the quarter up 79-70.
The fourth quarter was more of the same story. Despite cutting the lead to six at one point, Utah just couldn’t protect the rim. Gobert’s absence was made even more abundant in the 4th quarter, as Utah failed time and again to secure defensive rebounds that could have shifted the momentum in their favor. Still though, the Jazz just wouldn’t go away. Not til a big three point shot by Blake Griffin with 1:33 to go did the game feel truly out of reach for Utah. As satisfied as the Clippers should be about evening their series, it has to be at least slightly concerning that they didn’t dominate the Jazz in a game that seemed tailor made for them to dominate. Los Angeles was in control throughout, but this should have been a 20 point blow out. At times it felt like we were on the verge of it happening, but Utah just kept sticking around.It’s still unclear if Rudy Gobert will be available to play in game three. If he doesn’t, The Clippers might just dominate the paint again and find themselves up 2-1.
Game 3 will be Friday at 10 PM ET on ESPN 2 in Utah.
Baseline Times Staff Writer