Robert Flom: So.... the Jazz won Game 1 in stunning fashion, 97-95, on a Joe Johnson game winner. How surprised were you that the Jazz pulled off that victory, especially after Rudy Gobert left with an injury?
Amar: When Rudy went down I knew he wouldn't be coming back in this game. I think some of the vets on this team knew that before the trainers did. As a result we see Joe Ingles setting the tone in the first, Boris Diaw being assertive early, and Joe Johnson turning back the clock. It was tied at halftime, but I did not expect the Jazz to be up after three. The game winner from Iso-Joe was foreshadowed by him scoring on the same type of play two other times in the game (once on Blake Griffin, another time on a 50/50 loose ball). I was surprised the Jazz were in the game. But I was expecting Joe to win it when the team didn't take a time-out.
As an aside, for all of my complaining (pre-complaining) about fouls, it appears that the Jazz got the better of the refs in this one. Not just talking about more FTA / PF, but that phantom call on DeAndre Jordan on a Derrick Favors offensive rebound attempt. That was at a critical time in the fourth quarter. If that didn't happen then the Clippers have a foul to give on that last play - and that means fouling Joe Johnson, and then having the time to call a time-out and insert LRMaM.
In hindsight that's a crappy turn of events. But a crappy movie called The Butterfly Effect tells me that even one little change can spiral out of control.
Did you expect LAC to play with more or less urgency after Gobert went down in a heap? Did the results surprise you?
RF: Yeah, I think everyone knew that Joe Johnson was going to hit that final shot. He's one of the great clutch players of his generation, he was having a terrific game, and he was in a mismatch against a weak and smaller defender.
While I agree with you on that one call being weak, I thought the officiating was mostly fine. The Clippers certainly can't blame it for this loss, not after the Jazz lost Gobert. I thought the Clippers would relax after seeing Gobert go down, and they did so. They are a team that frequently doesn't play as hard as they should, and seeing the best player on an opposing team go down is more likely to make them take the foot off the pedal instead of going in for the kill.
The final result surprised me for sure, but it wasn't completely shocking. I thought the Jazz would win a game (or two) this series, and, knowing the Clippers, was expecting it to be a game they should otherwise win (home, against shorthanded opponent). The Clippers are an unbelievably frustrating team, and their losses are therefore mostly of the baffling sort.
What was your main takeaway from the Jazz victory?
Amar: There's no doubt in my mind that had the injury situation be reverse the Utah Jazz would have played with less of an edge. It's human nature. Or team psychology. Whatever it is, part of the reason why these two teams have only 51 wins this year is that at times they play down to their competition. And we saw that in Game 1. If there was one take-away for me it's that this series is going to be won by the team that wants it more. That doesn't mean the healthier team. That doesn't mean the team with nothing to lose either.
In the first game I think we saw the Jazz wanting it more, they won a number of 50/50 balls, they team rebounded a little better on the defensive glass, they were motivated. I think Doc Rivers is going to have his troops ready for Game 2. And I don't think it's going to be close at all. A blow out win at home is going to erase a lot of the hurt from a 2 point loss the game before.
I just don't know which guy is going to hurt the team more, and maybe you can speculate on this better. Is it going to be DeAndre Jordan dominating in the paint? We J.J. Redick shake off Joe Ingles enough to drop bombs from downtown? Or will Jamal Crawford explode off the bench? Or someone else? (I'm conceding that CP3 and Blake will both eat Utah alive.)
RF: I am fully with your point on the team wanting it more winning. The Clippers have had issues with effort and energy all season, and really, it's been a problem throughout the "Lob City" era. Chris Paul is the one player who almost always consistently plays with fire, and that's a concern against a team as well-coached and talented as the Jazz. While the Clippers have overwhelming talent if Gobert is out for the bulk of the series, the Jazz aren't going to just roll over. The Clippers will need to take this series, not expect it to be handed to them.
I would like to believe that the Clippers will blow out the Jazz in game 2. It's the most "logical" outcome, after all. The Clippers should be coming out angry, and motivated, and that combination along with home court should be a devastating one. This very scenario played out in 2014, when the Clippers were taking on the up-and-coming Golden State Warriors: they lost a disappointing game 1, and then came out and routed the Dubs in Game 2. And I do expect a similar result tomorrow.
I think both JJ Redick and DeAndre Jordan should play better in this one. DJ was 'fine' in Game 1, but should have dominated with Gobert absent. Derrick Favors is a very nice stand-in, but Jordan is bigger, more athletic, and just better. He needs to control the glass and the paint on both ends. Redick was absolutely shut down by Joe Ingles and the Jazz's scheme, and while Ingles is a good defender, I don't expect that to last all series. He might not explode, but I would be pretty shocked if he scored in the single digits again.
However, I foresee that Chris Paul will be the difference. I believe he is going to start the game looking for his shot, and George Hill still hasn't shown he can prevent Paul from getting to his spots consistently. I predict a 30+ point outing from CP in Game 2.
Are there any adjustments you think Quin Snyder should make for Game 2, or were you pretty satisfied with his (obviously winning) gameplan?
Amar: I think CP3 is going to come out trying to win the game in the first 5 minutes. And if the crowd is behind the Clippers and you get some transition dunks, it could be. I don't think there's any reasonable adjustment you can make to counter urgency. That said, actually good back-up point guard Raul Neto could be available for Game 2, relegating Shelvin Mack to the bench. Neto is a better defender, better three point shooter, and has the ability to elevate his game at times. He makes a deep Jazz team deeper if he's cleared to play. That's not really an adjustment, that's just health. It's going to be interesting to see if Neto gets the nod, he lost the 2nd string job to injury not because he was out played. Mack played under Snyder when they were both with Atlanta (Snyder an assistant), and Mack played with Hayward at Butler. He obviously has friends in high places. I trust Neto more. Not that either one could be a difference maker.
One guy who got the DNP-CD in Game one who 'could' play - especially if LAC is getting their shooters open through a number of off-ball screens, is Dante Exum. Dante has length, quickness, and defensive instincts to close out on good shooters if they are open. But with his talents, good shooters usually don't get the space to get open. I don't know if the coach trusts him (he's only 21 or whatever, I don't know what that is in Kangaroo years). But he's the only reasonable adjustment. It's not like they have some hidden gem off the bench to play minutes in the paint while Rudy is out. Utah is pretty much 'what you see is what you get' without their defensive star. If there was a card to play, Snyder may have already played it.
Furthermore, I don't expect Joe Johnson to average 20 ppg for this series. But that's not just on him. That's on the Clippers. What's the adjustment on him? Hopefully more Paul Pierce.
RF: I've liked what I've seen from Neto (not much, to be fair). Though, as you mentioned, I don't think he's really enough of an upgrade over Mack to make much a difference.
Honestly, I have never been an Exum fan. I know he's been better this season after a pretty putrid (offensively, anyway) rookie year, but I just don't really see "it" with him. Hopefully I'm wrong. He definitely has tools, and he would be an interesting option to stick on JJ if Ingles did start getting burned. I would guess we see one of him or Neto get real minutes before the series is out.
I also agree on Snyder not having many cards to play, but that Joe Johnson card is a pretty good one. Clippers' fans were afraid of ISO Joe coming into the series, and he proved us all right with his performance in Game 1. The Clippers don't have a guy who matches up well with him: their big men are mostly too slow, and their guards are all too small. Luc Mbah a Moute is the best cover for him, but he's gonna be on Gordon Hayward. My best bet would be to try Blake on him: if Joe can guard him, maybe the reverse is true as well. If Blake doesn't work, Wes Johnson would be my next option. He's been horrible on offense this year, but he's a solid defender with the length to bother Joe.
On a scale of 1-10, how happy were you when you saw Paul Pierce check into the game? How incredulous?
Amar: Exum is still trying to figure out what he is, a PG or a SG. This is a million dollar question not just for him, but the coaching staff struggling to get a return on their #5 draft pick investment. He does have 6'9.5" wingspan for a PG/SG. That's not the worst thing to have, if all he becomes is a defensive guy who can drive and pass a little. Meh. It's not what you want from a #5 pick though.
The good news for the Jazz is that you only have one LRMaM. But it would be interesting to see Wes out there. He's had a few good shooting games against Utah before, back when he was with the Lakers. But the smaller LAC goes the better it gets for UTA who are short handed without Gobert right now. It's probably better for Doc to force it with bigs to make Quin adjust, and not the other way around.
Paul Pierce made me laugh. Seeing him check in at the scorer's table made me very happy, like an 8/10. But then I was filled with fear -- what if he was playing possum all season and saving himself for the Playoffs? I'm not going to overlook him. I suspect that he'll have at least one or two good scoring games in this series. Just because he's a HOF legend.
But with the age of some of your player, and the heavy minutes your starters are being forced to play because Austin Rivers is out . . . is it better to finish this series sooner rather than later? The longer it goes the more pressure Doc and company are under, and the longer it goes the greater the chance Gobert comes back. What do you think? Finish in 5?
RF: I second the idea that going small favors (haha) the Jazz a bit, but the Clippers can't continue to let Joe cook them like he did in game 1. Wes is also a solid rebounder for a wing, so that would mitigate a bit of the loss in that department.
If I were you, I would not be worried about Pierce one bit. He's barely even played this season, not because Doc is saving him, but because his legs are gone and he has nothing left to give anymore. He knows where to be on the court and provides a modicum of spacing. Maybe he hits a 3. That's all the Clippers can hope for if he plays.
The Clippers should definitely be trying to win this asap. While they can't overlook the Jazz (obviously), the Warriors look like a thundercloud in the 2nd round, and they are going to almost certainly only need 4 games to deal with the Blazers. I've already mentioned the Clippers collapsing under pressure, and while I think they could beat the Jazz at home in a game 7, I would really prefer it not come to that.
Gobert coming back (at least even close to fully healthily), seems pretty remote, except maybe in a game 7. I think trying to get rest before round 2 and preparing for the awaiting onslaught is probably a bigger concern. But again, the Clippers look forward at their peril.
I think the Clippers win in 6: win game 2, split in Utah, and then win the last two with a healthy Austin. Are you still on the Jazz in 7 train?
Amar: It's going to be very hard for Utah to win two more of the next six games, but they will try. A seven-game series benefits me the most because I get to continue having these exchanges with you! This is a lot of fun why didn't we do this in the regular season?
We both predict a blowout for game two. And I agree a split in Utah seems to be the most reasonable thing. Best two out of three to end this first round is made for TV for sure.
I hope it happens!