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Game 3 Preview: Clips head to Utah to face Jazz

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The Jazz will once again be without Rudy Gobert. Can the Clippers take advantage?

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

The Clips were able to avoid disaster by coming out and asserting themselves from the jump in Game 2. The game didn’t feel particularly close throughout, as LAC never relinquished control after jumping out to a quick 29-18 lead after one period.

The Clippers clearly made it a point of emphasis to attack the rim without Rudy Gobert in there to patrol the paint. LAC dominated the paint on the offensive end, outscoring Utah 60-38 on the interior. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined to score 42 points in this one, which was enough for LAC to overcome a Jazz team that was uncharacteristically hot from deep (10-25 from three-point range).

The Jazz have already announced that the Stifle Tower won’t be suiting up for Game 3, which means the Clippers need to go right back to what they were doing on Tuesday and pound the paint. Utah started Boris Diaw in Gobert’s place in Game 2, and it’s safe to say the beefy Frenchman isn’t much of a presence on the defensive end of the floor. He can’t really do anything on offense anymore, either, but that’s a different story.

Obviously the Clips would’ve preferred to take both home games, especially since Gobert didn’t play, but it’s too late to do anything about that now. This goes without saying, but it’s imperative that LA goes into Salt Lake City and gets at least one themselves. We know blowing 3-1 leads is a new and fun trend in the league nowadays, but coming back to LA and needing to win three straight is not an option.

The Antagonist

Gobert’s absence will clearly loom large for Utah’s long-term prospects in this series. They’ve already shown that they’re capable of beating the Clippers without him, but in a long series LAC has a clear-cut edge over the Jazz without that guy on the floor. We know Utah misses his defensive impact, but they also lose the offensive gravity he provides. He’s not as potent a rim roller as Jordan is, but he does have a similar collapsing effect on a defense. Diaw (or Jeff Withey) sure isn’t providing that.

Few could’ve guessed the Jazz would be in this position given the Gobert situation. They did what they had to do in stealing a game in Los Angeles, and now they get to come home and play in front of one of the league’s more raucous crowds. For all their success as a franchise over the years, tonight’s game will be the first playoff game in Salt Lake since 2012. It’s going to be loud, and the Jazz are going to try and come out and rattle the Clippers early.

They’re likely going to need another hot shooting night from deep if they want to have a shot at beating LAC here. Utah is forced to go small without their center available, which certainly has pros and cons going against a team that plays a big lineup like the Clippers do. Lining the perimeter with shooters and dragging the bigs further from the basket is one way the strategy can succeed.

Key Matchup

Gordon Hayward vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

If you’d like a better idea of just how ridiculously well Luc Mbah a Moute has played for the first couple games of this series, click over here and read what Robert Flom had to say. Doc Rivers already said prior to Game 3 that he plans to continue matching Hayward’s minutes with Luc’s, which I’d imagine is the opposite of music to Hayward’s ears. What’s the opposite of music to someone’s ears? Probably Adithya’s food takes.

Hayward stumbled his way to 20 points in the last game, but he shot just 5-15 from the field and collected seven of those points from the stripe. He shot 7-18 in Game 1, which is also quite subpar. especially for a guy that connected on better than 47 percent of his shots from the field during the regular year.

It’s also worth mentioning that Blake Griffin did an excellent job defending Joe Johnson after Johnson lit up the Clips in Game 1. Iso Joe hit just six of 15 attempts from the floor and scored 13 points off the bench. The Jazz need Johnson to pick up some slack if Hayward is going to struggle with LMAM blanketed all over him. If Griffin is the answer to that, then it’s unclear where Utah is going to go when they need a bucket.

The Fancy Table

Game Day Song of Choice

Once you get past the dweeb in the Mets tank this is a pretty good song. Really!

The Clips will look to take a 2-1 advantage over the Jazz starting tonight at 7pm.