The Clips came out fiery, aggressive, and hitting their shots en route to the best start to a game we’ve seen from them in months. The starting unit, which has routinely been ineffective this whole season - even with the old crew - started the game strong, and built a 17 point lead at one point. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finally shook the rust off after going 1-for-17 in his last three games, and stepped up with a quick nine points in the frame. Danilo Gallinari also came out hot, and finished the quarter with 11. He also finally converted his ball off the backboard maneuver for an and-one, which was fun to see.
The starters did a fantastic job of positioning the bench to strengthen their double-digit lead, but something seemed a bit off. The Jazz were smart in keeping Rudy Gobert on the floor with Montrezl Harrell, and his length helped in getting the Jazz back in the game. In a slow frame where 15 fouls were called, the Clips let up a bit at the end, but took a seven-point lead after the first due to some stellar play from JaMychal Green.
The Clips started the 2nd with the bench unit, and finally found some breathing room with a quick 6-0 start. Green continued to hit shots and play great defense, especially against Derrick Favors.
The offense slowed down a little bit, as Lou was way off his normal shooting percentages tonight. He had trouble finishing at the rim all game, and his two-man game with Trez was affected by the length of the Jazz bigs. When he tried to get Trez or another big on a roll, it wasn’t there, and he had trouble finishing on his own too. When the starters came back in, they did a good job of building the lead back up a bit. Ivica Zubac played well despite being outmatched by both Favors and Gobert. He hustled, played smart, made some shots, and rebounded well. He did give up a few offensive boards, but overall was a positive. The Clips got it back together late in the second frame and went into the locker room with a seven point lead, 56-49.
The dreaded third quarter falloff was well on it’s way, as the Jazz took the lead back early after a quick 9-0 run and two Donovan Mitchell threes. Shots weren’t falling for the starters the way they were in the first, especially for Gallo and SGA, and it looked as though the Jazz could go on a big run. The only player preventing this it seemed like was Patrick Beverley (who has been absolutely killing it lately), who was hitting floaters, threes and maintaining his normal aggression defensively. His energy is always great, but tonight it felt like it was even more palpable. The bench came in later in the frame, and despite some sloppy play early, pushed the lead back up to five with a minute left to play. Green again was hitting shots and providing a spark, and Trez was finally making a difference and getting to the rim. A sloppy last minute killed the Clips, however, and they ended the frame tied with Utah at 83.
This game had the most playoff feel of any Clippers game so far this season. The crowd was into it, the players were scrapping and yapping, and the intensity was high. The fourth quarter grew into a back-and-forth affair, with both teams taking five+ point leads. The only problem with this was that the Clippers were giving up SO MANY DAMN 50/50 BALLS and offensive rebounds. Usually the former doesn’t kill us while the latter does, but tonight it was both. Whether it was luck or sheer will, the Jazz turned some sloppiness into points. Late in the game, the Clips also couldn’t get any stops. They had no problem scoring or getting to the line and converting (went 26-of-30 from the line tonight), but could not get a stop, and that was the difference. Even with Trez starting to find his rhythm and Lou starting to hit as well, Gallo was ice cold after the first frame, and when you go 5-for-26 from three, you’re not going to win many games. Also, for the Jazz, Mitchell kept getting to the rack, Raul Neto randomly played well, and the more experienced, taller team beat the Clips by six 111-105.
Wouldn’t look into this loss too much: If we’re being honest with ourselves, that’s the best the team has looked against the Jazz in a very long time. For L.A. to only shoot 19 percent from three and nearly beat a sure playoff team, on the road, is not a bad loss whatsoever. This is a game the Clips can easily learn from. If they play like this every night (barring the shooting, of course), the Clips are really dangerous.