SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets will play once more to decide which team advances to the second round of the NBA playoffs, but the opponent was determined on Sunday afternoon.
The LA Clippers wrapped up their first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, winning Game 6 111-97. The 2nd-seeded Clippers won the series against the 7th-seeded Mavericks four games to two, taking the final two games to advance.
Had the Jazz beat the Nuggets on Sunday in Game 6 of their series, Game 1 against the Clippers would have been on Tuesday night.
Before Utah’s game Sunday, head coach Quin Snyder said that, as usual at this point in the season, he had assigned staff to scout the teams the Jazz could face down the road in the postseason.
“For me, there’s a planning process on the front end where we talk about how we divide up various opponents, really, going up into the playoffs where a lot of that work is being done behind the scenes,” Snyder said. “The same is true if we’re fortunate enough to win and beat Denver and move forward. There’s guys on the staff that that work is being done.”
Snyder emphasized, though, that while he’s given scouting work to his assistants, his full attention is on figuring out how to try to beat the Nuggets.
“It’s always a mistake to look ahead obviously,” he said. “We’re in a dogfight of a series, and that’s the same message. I don’t think our players in any way — we’re completely present, focused on what we’re doing this series, and that’s the best way to have an opportunity to move forward, but our staff is — that’s part of the process for them, and being prepared on a granular level, I think as you move forward, that preparation becomes even more detailed, but that’s going on concurrently while we’re doing what we’re doing.”
On Sunday, Dallas led by five at the end of the first quarter, but the high-powered Mavericks scored just 17 points in the second as the Clippers overtook them. In the third, LA stretched its lead to 23, but Dallas cut it to six in the fourth.
The Mavericks got no closer, though, as Kawhi Leonard took over for the Clippers, scoring eight points in the next two minutes. He finished with 33 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Luka Doncic countered with 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for Dallas, which was without big man Kristaps Porzingis because of injury.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said after his team’s game that he liked how the group looked during their series, and he anticipates guard Patrick Beverley being available when the second round starts after Beverley missed all but Game 1 of the first round because of injury.
“Kawhi was phenomenal throughout this whole series,” Rivers said. “I thought he was dominant, and then (Paul George) picked it up greatly after the first two games, but there’s so many other little things that guys did.”
Rivers pointed specifically to Marcus Morris being an “instigator,” Ivica Zubac having “the playoff of his life” and Landry Shamet and Reggie Jackson making big shots.
“I like how we looked in that way,” Rivers said, “that other guys contributed.”