The Los Angeles Clippers lose game one of their first-round matchup against the Utah Jazz on Saturday after Utah’s Joe Johnson hits a game-winner at the buzzer.
The 97-95 loss is certainly a disappointing one for the Clippers but it is only game one, people. Yes, they’ve lost their home court advantage which they fought so hard to win. And yes, all the momentum and confidence built during their season-ending seven-game winning streak has vanished.
But no one was injured and there is still time to fix what went wrong. So let’s take a look at what happened Saturday night and what the Clippers can do in game two to bounce back from a game that I’m just going to pretend never happened.
When I say no one got injured I meant no Clippers were injured. That is one bright spot in Saturday’s debacle. Utah, on the other hand, lost their best and most reliable player both defensively and offensively when star center Rudy Gobert knocked knees with Clipper forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the first play of the game.
Gobert had to be helped off the court and tests later revealed he suffered a hyperextended left knee and a bone bruise. With Utah’s leader in minutes played, blocks, and rebounds out, one would think the Clippers big men would have owned it under the basket. They didn’t.
Yes, they out-rebounded the Jazz 40-34 but if you can’t turn around and score, then the stat means nothing. The Jazz scored more in the paint, 42 points to 40, which is unacceptable when their star center is out and the Clippers have experienced big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
Yes, Blake Griffin had a game high 26-points, but he was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter and committed several costly turnovers. DeAndre Jordan took only seven shots the entire game. He should have been DOMINATING with Gobert gone. Why can’t the Clippers find him when they need him most?
With the loss of Gobert, the Jazz was forced to go smaller – effectively spreading out their offense on the floor. With strong drives and passes, the offensive switch seemed to hurt the Clippers and their often late-game shaky defense. In game two, they’ve GOT to tighten that up. Their defense, both under the basket and around the perimeter, has got to be better.
Simply put, the Clippers were out-hustled and outplayed. Team leader Chris Paul, after an alarmingly quiet first half, thankfully came alive in the second. In a disastrous third quarter where the team fell by 15, Paul did everything to try and get his teammates involved.
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But when they couldn’t score, he tried to do it all himself. In the last six minutes of the game, Paul was the only Clipper to score from the field other than one layup by J.J. Redick.
In game two, Griffin and Paul must play TWO strong halves and the supporting players have to support. Paul can’t do it all himself. Griffin must curtail the turnovers; Jordan has to dominate under the basket, Reddick has to find away to score over his perimeter defenders, and Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford need hit their shots.
On the bright side? The Clippers get another chance – it’s not over – and I’m thinking they can not shoot any worse from the perimeter than they did on Saturday. On the flip side, I’m hoping Joe Johnson can not keep up his frenetic pace either.
Yes, the Jazz responded when their star went down but will this seldom-used rotation be able to sustain against the Big Three? I don’t think so – at least I’m hoping it can’t.
It’s do or die for this team – and while they didn’t play like it in game one – it’s got to be on their minds. Game two is back at Staples on Tuesday night at 7:30 pm.