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Analysis: LA Clippers evened series with Utah Jazz by mounting an early lead

The Clippers led by 17 at the end of the first quarter and beat the Jazz 118-104 on Monday in Los Angeles.

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Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, right, gestures after a foul that was committed by the Utah Jazz as the Jazz’s guard Donovan Mitchell looks down during the second half in Game 4 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Los Angeles. 

Mark J. Terrill, AP

The Utah Jazz lost Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals to the Los Angeles Clippers 118-104 on Monday. The Clippers’ win tied the series 2-2 heading into Game 5 back in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

High Notes

  • Rudy Gobert cannot defend the Clippers by himself and Donovan Mitchell cannot score all the Jazz’s points. To their credit, without getting much help from anyone else, they really tried to do their best Monday. Those are very, very good basketball players who are *almost* always great at what they do.
  • After one of the worst halves of basketball they’ve played in a very long time, the Jazz started to get their heads out of the sand in the second half and were able to mount a bit of a comeback. 
  • Mitchell did not leave the floor limping for the first time in three games. We’re searching for a silver lining here, folks.
  • The Jazz tried a couple of different defensive looks, a couple of zone formations that seemed to have some success, and also some different offensive strategies, with Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic running up top and Mitchell working more off the ball. Changing things up like this seemed to give them a little bit of an edge, if only for a moment.

Low Notes

  • The first half was a mess from the Jazz. Bad reads, late reads, ugly unforced turnovers, a boatload of missed shots, slouchy transition defense, missed rotations, ball watching, and the list of things the Jazz did wrong goes on and on and on.

“When you allow a team to kind of get out in transition, get going early, it’s tough to come back from that. We fought and competed and we’ll look at the film and be ready for Game 5.” —Donovan Mitchell

  • The Jazz were able to cut 10 points off the Clippers’ 24-point halftime lead in large part because of the activity of Gobert, but then head coach Quin Snyder went with his usual sub pattern of taking Gobert out at the 6:36 mark in the third. The Clippers immediately pushed the lead back to 20 points. There was some concern with Gobert’s foul situation (he had four at the time) but it’s also fair to wonder whether Snyder would be willing to ride out Gobert for 40 minutes, which he hasn’t seemed to be willing to do. 

Flat Notes

  • Jordan Clarkson’s shot selection in the first half in particular was atrocious. Adding insult to injury, his reads were about five seconds too late. I’m always hesitant to criticize Clarkson when he is missing shots, especially if they are wide open or rhythm looks because that’s who the Jazz want him to be. But the Jazz don’t want him to be the guy that takes off-balance, contested mid-range shots, or takes shots that are too early when there is another guy more open and in better position. 
  • It’s bad when Georges Niang completely misses defensive assignments but it’s worse when Royce O’Neale is getting beat or blown by over and over. The Jazz can’t afford to have him not be strong on the defensive end.
  • The Clippers scored 12 fast break points, the Jazz scored zero. The Clippers scored 18 second-chance points, the Jazz scored one. The Jazz allowed these situations to pile on and knocked the energy out of the team early on.

“One of the first couple of possessions, we actually had some good defensive possessions, but we gave up second chance points. You give up a couple offensive rebounds, which I think they’re deflating.” — Quin Snyder