For the third time this series, the score was 10-2 in the opening minutes, forcing an exasperated head coach to call timeout early.
Only this time it was the Clippers off to a hot start, and the Jazz searching for answers. The Clippers finally got off to a hot start after three games of playing from behind, changing the tone of the game. They took control early, winning the first quarter 30-13, and never let go en route to a 118-104 victory.
The team finally got an offensive boost from Marcus Morris Sr. Monday. Morris had begun the second round shooting 1-of-16 from from distance, but all that changed with his brother Markieff at Staples Center for Game 4. Once again buoyed by the presence of his twin, Morris nailed his first five threes to finish with 24 points.
That, combined with star turns from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, made the Clippers too offensively potent for the Jazz to keep up with. Leonard and George finished with 31 points apiece. They are now the third duo in league history to each score at least 20 points in the first 11 games of the postseason.
They took advantage of the Jazz missing their defensive anchor. Rudy Gobert got in foul trouble, and the Clippers brutalized Derrick Favors. They splashed jumpers over him when Favors was forced to defend on an island in isolation, and they showed zero hesitation blowing past him to get to the rim or finishing over him when they got there.
Leonard in particular was feeling quite springy. Help from Georges Niang prevented Leonard from slamming it home the first time he got to the rim, but Leonard persisted, and eventually rocked one over Favors.
While the Clippers got another well-rounded scoring effort, the Jazz were strictly a one-man show. L.A. did its best to bottle up Donovan Mitchell; Leonard, George, and Patrick Beverley started possessions as the primary defender on the Utah guard, trying to make his life difficult and stay out of rotation.
Mitchell powered through, finding openings anyway, but the rest of the Jazz offense sputtered, to put it mildly. The Jazzmen not named Mitchell combined for eight field goals in the first half. If you take away Joe Ingles’ three 3-pointers, their total scoring output was exceeded by one Paul George.
It was a remarkable defensive performance, one that shouldn’t get lost in the midst of so many offensive highlights. The Clippers reminded everyone why they fancy themselves a title contender and why this series was far from over after Utah won the first two at home.
Both teams have simply held serve so far, doing their job by winning the games on their home court. The Clippers will have to break that streak to win the series, but at least they’re playing at a much higher level than they were when the second round began in Salt Lake City. Now comes the hard part of bringing this effort on the road.