A: GAME 7 BABY
R: Yeah man! I'm just pretty exhausted at this point haha. How are you holding up in your first playoffs in 7 years? Nerve-wracking as you remember?
A: Are we discounting the Utah Jazz triumphant return to the playoffs, and ensuing sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, in 2012? Yeah, I'd want to forget that too. The playoffs suck because you can only enjoy a) blowout wins, b) games your team isn't playing in. The experience of having to be hyper focused on 11 different things on every single play for every moment of the game is a little exhausting. Did the score keeper start the clock too early on this rolling in-bounds? When is Chris Paul going to call for the screen? Is it coming on the left or right side? Did the defender go under the screen again? Really? Okay, Boris Diaw picked up DeAndre Jordan and it's just embarrassing for both of them. What, there's still 12 seconds on the shot clock? Wow, Raymond Felton is the healthiest fat guy ever. Hmmm, how different would things be if Dante Exum was defending right now? Oh no! I lost track of Paul Pierce! I LOST TRACK OF PAUL PIERCE!
That times 90 possessions a game, times six games . . . I love it. I can't even complain. It's so much better than waiting for the draft lotto to see that my team is picking 14th or whatever.
Game Seven is great. It's what a lot of people expected with these two teams healthy. It's only fitting that they get a chance to decided it by that, with all of the attrition.
Only in my mind a Game 7 meant that the Jazz won Game 6. The opposite happened. I think the momentum is back in LA's court, even if they lost on their home court two out of three times already. Do you think so? Or are Doc Rivers' teams immune to momentum swings?
R: The playoffs are definitely exhausting (unless you're a fan of one of the superteams dominating the NBA at any given time). There are always things to worry about, and pay attention to, and criticize. It's impossible to not do those things, especially in a series as tight as this Clippers-Jazz battle has been.
Six consecutive years in the playoffs has probably numbed me to the joy of the playoffs a little bit, but it's still so much fun. I agree that watching other teams is more "enjoyable" than watching the Clips, but there's nothing quite like heavily agitating over a bunch of grown men play a kid's game for 3 hours.
To answer your question, yes, the Clippers never have momentum. If they do, they are certainly the worst team in the league at holding onto said momentum. As you saw at the end of Game 6, no lead is ever safe with the Clippers. They have blown leads in every imaginable fashion, and some that are truly unbelievable. Even a first-ballot Hall of Fame point guard in Chris Paul isn't immune to staggering brain farts when the going gets tough, though I wouldn't count on that happening again.
I thought the Clips would lose Game 6. I still think the Jazz have a very good chance of winning Game 7. The Clippers' defense was much improved in Game 6, particularly in the second half, but the Jazz also just missed a bunch of shots. Did you see anything in Game 6 that makes you particularly worried about the Jazz's chances of winning Game 7?
A: I'm really worried about the urgency of this team. I guess there's no way to replicate a team that's been together for over five years with the same core who are fighting because they know what they are fighting for. This Jazz team finally made the playoffs, there could be some changes to this core in the off-season, so many of the players are under 25 years old . . . and they weren't playing for their lives. They were playing just because . . . it was like just another game to them. If they come out with that lack of edge it's clear that LAC will win the day. You'd think that guys like Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson, and George Hill would be able to communicate why every playoff game matters. Furthermore, even dudes like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors made the playoffs before, and then didn't see it again for five years straight.
You shouldn't have to need a reason to get up for playoff games.
Did you see anything that makes you worried that the Clippers aren't going to win Game 7? If you know any, I'd love to hear them!
R: That's fair. I don't really know why the Jazz came out so flat in Game 6, but it was pretty shocking to me. They have enough veteran presences that I wasn't expecting such a letdown, and I'm at least glad the Clips pounced on it. The Clippers have had issues with effort and getting up for games for years, so I'm used to it. I'm just unused to the Clips being the more motivated team.
I am very worried about the Clippers winning Game 7. Here are the reasons why:
1. Their homecourt advantage hasn't been great in a couple years now, and while I think it should be better in this one, I don't think it's nearly as significant as what the Jazz possess at Vivint Smart Arena.
2. The Jazz missed a lot of open shots in Game 6, and I'm not confident they will again. Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood might not be Steph Curry or Kyrie Irving, but they're solid shooters, and both clanked numerous good looks in the last game. So did George Hill, who is just as good if not better than those guys as a stand up shooter.
3. The Jazz have Joe Johnson. Enough said.
4. The Clippers got strong contributions from Jamal Crawford, Mo Speights, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Austin Rivers in Game 6. While all those guys are capable of performances like that of Game 6, having them all play at such a comparatively high level is rare, and I wouldn't expect that to continue in Game 7.
Are any of those plausible to you?
A: The only thing I believe in right now is Joe Johnson. But the more I look at it these teams are so even right down the middle. From points to free throw attempts to now wins. I don't think either team is going to win in a blowout. It's going to come down to the last shot, as usual.
I believe that Chris Paul has a lot of dangerous finishers on the team still. Blake is not there and that is a shame. But with Paul's court vision and the defensive focus he's going to receive I have to believe that there's going to be at least two guys open in crunch time.
Is he going to be the go-to guy scorer or distributor? I think with guys like Austin Rivers back and Crawford finally finding his shot it makes more sense to draw and kick. What do you think they're going to do in crunch time?
R: Joe Johnson is incredibly scary. Moving Luc onto him with Austin Rivers guarding Gordon Hayward definitely worked some in Game 6, but he's liable to explode at any moment, even with an All Defense level defender guarding him. I would be very surprised if he didn't have a big Game 7.
Paul's crunch-time role really depends on how he is shooting, if any other Clippers are hot, and what the exact circumstances are. When the Clippers are up, I think he tends to actually run the offense a bit more, even if it's just a high pick and roll with DeAndre Jordan. If Jamal Crawford is feeling it, Paul might defer to him somewhat, but that's really the only circumstance where I can see the Clippers play without the final decision being Paul's. Austin Rivers (or JJ Redick) are always ready to shoot, and if they're open, you know Paul will find them.
Ok. What is your final prediction for this game (and therefore the series)?
A: Jazz in 7, just what I predicted before this season started. I don't have any supporting evidence for this. These two teams were somewhat close in the regular season, and now in their broken states are even more close. It's probably a coin flip. I'm going with my dawgs here. They can't ALL shoot poorly from downtown in three straight games.
R: It's the pessimist in me, but I'm going to agree with you. I think the Jazz pull out a victory, as you said, behind some hot three-point shooting. It's essentially a toss-up, but the Jazz have more talent with Blake out.
It's been great doing this series with you Amar. If the Jazz do win, good luck against the Warriors. If not, I hope your team is able to bring back Gordon Hayward. He's great, and it would be nice to see him help build a real playoff contender in Utah.