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2017 NBA Playoffs First Round: Clippers-Jazz Game 2 Preview

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The Clippers must win or travel to Utah down 2-0.

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture:

SADNESS. PAIN. FRUSTRATION. DEJA VU. A BARREL OF I CAN’T EVEN. It’s Clippers playoff basketball!

Cooler heads will say it’s just one loss, and a buzzer-beating one at that. As Chris Paul noted, by that old trope about road victories, it’s a series now. The home-court advantage that the Clippers so gamely earned in the waning weeks of the regular season was gift-wrapped and shipped express rate to Salt Lake City, but with six games to play and a 7-foot Eiffel-Tower-sized hole in the Jazz’ starting quintet, it’s not over.

Heck, the Clippers might still even be favored. But, given the circumstances (Round 1 Game 1 at home, recent ownership of the opponent, All-Star caliber center injured on first possession), those who tend toward panic and overreaction have reason to see the sky falling. If ever there was a game to dominate, it was that one.

Which leads us to some dangerous words: if ever there was a game to dominate, it would be this one. A win is a near-must. A tight win might feel like just keeping up, or treading water. A win that comes only in the final moments could portend struggles in the road games to come.

What happens tonight won’t change whether this is a series. But it could tell us if it will be a long one.

The Antagonist:

As our colleagues at SLC Dunk have so aptly remarked, the Jazz are playing with house money. At worst, they leave LA tied 1-1, with the series in hand if they hold serve at home in front of their notedly raucous crowds. At best, the Clippers fold again and Utah fans start dreaming with brooms.

Although, a short series seems unlikely, for either side, even with Rudy Gobert on the sidelines and fellow defensive stalwart and able replacement Derrick Favors hobbled by his own injuries. No matter, though, as the Jazz hold the upper hand with a win in their pocket, waiting for the Clippers to counter with a strategic shift, or, more simply, a return in focus and execution.

The Clippers are adding to their history of beating themselves, something these Jazz look loathe to do. They’ll spread the floor, make scoring Hell, and see if Gordon Hayward or Joe Johnson can bring some more crunch-time heroics. The Jazz are ready to rock.

The Subplots:

  • Injuries, injuries, injuries: Rudy Gobert is officially ruled out for Game 2, but hopes to return before the end of the series. Austin Rivers is also officially out, and is doubtful for Game 3.
  • Bad Idea for Game 2 #1: Blake Griffin spin moves. Blake turned it over 6 times in total, and many came while he pirouetted down the lane. It was pretty, but pretty ineffective, as the Jazz’ swipey defenders seemed ready and willing to knock the ball away.
  • Bad Idea for Game 2 #2: Ray Felton guarding Gordon Hayward in the fourth quarter. Luc Mbah a Moute, who tortures poor Hayward, didn’t reenter the game until the 4:28 mark. To that point in the quarter, the 6’8” Hayward had mercilessly abused the 6’1” Felton. With Rivers still out, there might be bench minutes for Wes Johnson.
  • Bad Idea for Game 2 #3: