The Utah Jazz will play the LA Clippers in the second round. Here are three things to know before the series begins
With a 126-111 Game 7 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon, the Clippers advanced and will take on the Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals
Bring on the Los Angeles Clippers.
With a 126-111 Game 7 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon, the Clippers advanced and will take on the Utah Jazz in a Western Conference semifinal that tips off at Vivint Arena on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. MDT on TNT.
The Clippers evened the series against the Mavericks 3-3 on Friday behind a 45-point performance by Kawhi Leonard and then became the first team in the series to win a game at home when they closed out the Mavericks in Game 7 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Jazz have been waiting since Wednesday to find out who they would face in the second round after beating the Memphis Grizzlies in five games. Now that they know the team headed to Salt Lake City, the Jazz can turn their full attention to game planning for the Clippers.
Be ready to fight
The Jazz have had a few days to cool off from the heat of playoff competition, but the Clippers are going to be fresh off the high of the intensity of a Game 7 win at home.
Though the Grizzlies gave the Jazz some tough competition, the stakes are higher with every playoff round and the Clippers have players that have been tested through deep playoff runs. They are led by Leonard, a two-time NBA champion who understands the kind of fight necessary to advance in the postseason.
Slow starts and early turnovers won’t cut it this time around. The Jazz will need to compete at the highest level from the opening tip of Game 1.
The Rudy Gobert advantage
The Clippers don’t have someone that can competently matchup with Gobert, especially with Serge Ibaka sidelined because of back spasms. Utilizing the gravity of the pick-and-roll with Gobert will be paramount for the Jazz in a series against the Clippers.
With excellent perimeter defenders in Leonard and Paul George, the Jazz might look to score more on the interior than they might have against a different team. Either way, well-timed screens and hard rolls with intention will either lead to opportunities for Gobert or create space for a shooter to get open.
Royce O’Neale’s tall task
The Jazz’s best perimeter defender is going to have his hands full, primarily tasked with guarding Leonard, one of the best players in the game, and likely having to switch onto George at times.
O’Neale played incredibly on both ends of the floor in the Jazz’s opening series against the Grizzlies. He’ll need to duplicate that performance against tougher opponents and maintain aggressive defense while not fouling against two players who are extremely skilled in drawing contact.
Games 1 and 2 of the Jazz-Clippers series will be played in Salt Lake City, with Games 3 and 4 on the road in Los Angeles.