Well, that was an underwhelming effort by Los Angeles. Everything pointed to a Clipper victory on Sunday afternoon. The game was in Los Angeles, home teams were 101-25 (80%) all time in game 7’s, and to top everything off, arguably Utah’s best player, Rudy Gobert, came out of game 6 nursing an ankle injury. Somehow though, Utah cruised to a 104-91 victory over Los Angeles, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer days. Gordon Hayward once again led the way for Utah with 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. Rudy Gobert was in foul trouble all night, and only managed to score 1 point before fouling out in the 4th quarter. However, veteran point guard George Hill helped out with 17 points and 5 assists, while Derrick Favors did his best Rudy Gobert impression, with 17 points, 3 assists, and 11 rebounds. For the Clippers, Chris Paul had a hot start, but cooled off considerably, and finished the game with only 13 points and 5 assists. DeAndre Jordan had an impressive game with 24 points and 17 rebounds, while 3 time 6th Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford, came off the bench and dropped 20 points. Sadly, Sunday’s Clippers loss marks the end of the line for one of the NBA’s all time greats, Paul Pierce. He would wrap up his NBA career scoring 6 points, pulling down 3 boards, and droping one dime. A tip of the hat to a true legend.
If it wasn’t for Joe Johnson’s heroics at the end of game 1, this series might not have even gotten to Sunday. With the memories of coming back from down 3-2 to the San Antonio Spurs a couple of years ago still fresh though, Clippers fans were feeling confident about leaving game 7 with a “W.” Everything was going great with 8:57 left in the first quarter. Rudy Gobert had just picked up his 2nd personal foul, forcing him out of the game, the Clippers were up 5-4 after a pair of made free throws by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but then the wheels fell off. Utah took the lead, 6-5 on the next possession, and never gave it back. The 1st quarter would still be very competitive, and the Clippers would end it on a small run and tie the game 24-24, heading into the 2nd, it was all Jazz from there. George Hill hit a jumper with 5:15 to go in th 2nd quarter that put the Jazz up 11, 41-30, and prompted a time out from Doc Rivers. The Clippers would mount a small comeback by the end of the quarter and go into the locker room for half time only down 7, 46-39.
Things got ugly for the Clippers in the 3rd quarter. The Jazz opened the quarter on a 23-9 run, took a 69-48 lead, and essentially ended the game and the series there. The Clippers would end the 3rd quarter down 16 points, 79-63, and folks inside Staples Center were hoping for a miracle comeback. That comeback would never come. They would cut the Jazz lead to 8 points with 3:23 to go, on J.J. Reddick’s only 3 pointer of the game, but that would be it. Another Clipper season ends in disappointing fashion. Now comes a summer full of roster questions. Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have player options to become free agent this summer. Paul Pierce just retired, J.J. Reddick’s deal is up, Marreese Speights’ deal is up, and Jamal Crawford isn’t getting any younger so bench depth is going to be a concern going forward. Doc Rivers’ position as Head Coach shouldn’t be in any jeopardy, but maybe it’s time to re-evaluate his position as President of Basketball Opperations. After all, it was Doc who failed to pull the trigger on a rumored deal for Carmelo Anthony that wouldn’t have included any of the Cippers’ big three. If the reason he didn’t go through with the trade is because he didn’t want to part ways with his son (Austin Rivers), as has been speculated, then that’s nepotism, and it’s something that Clippers Owner, Steve Ballmer is going to have to address. Carmelo Anthony sure would’ve come in handy against the Jazz, and especially in game 7 were the Clippers struggled so much to score. The Utah Jazz will move on to face the number 1 seed Golden State Warriors now, in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Game one is Tueday at 10:30 pm EST on TNT.
Baseline Times Staff Writer