LOS ANGELES — Three thoughts on the Jazz's Game 7 104-91 win over the Los Angeles Clippers from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. The Jazz get a signature win with their signature skills
The Jazz won a Game 7 on the road by playing Jazz basketball. What does that mean in 2017?
They were a defensive wall. The Clippers scored 15 in the second quarter, allowing the Clippers to have just 65 points per 100 possessions in the period. That carried over after halftime into the third quarter, when the Jazz allowed just 75 points per 100 possessions while Chris Paul was in the game. League average is about 108 points per 100 possessions, and the Jazz just shut them down in the middle of the game. The Jazz didn't let the Clippers go anywhere they wanted to, thanks to some smart game planning and terrific execution. More on this later.
They were offensively precise. The Jazz had only eight turnovers, but 22 assists. They passed the ball around until they got an open shot: on Sunday, lots of those came from Derrick Favors in the paint. When that didn't work, they picked the Clippers apart on great work from Gordon Hayward (26 points) and George Hill (17 points). And then the role players contributed: Rodney Hood's shot fell, he scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Ditto with Joe Ingles, except he had 12 points on his 4-of-6 shooting. And Boris Diaw had some super goofy interior finishes and even a couple of and-ones to finish with 10 points on, you guessed it, 4-of-6 shooting.
They were deep. In the most important game of the season, 12 of the possible 13 players got minutes in the first half. When Rudy Gobert went out with foul trouble, Favors stepped up and had one of the best games of his season. When Raul Neto struggled offensively, Shelvin Mack came in and played some point guard minutes. When Favors needed a breather while Gobert couldn't play, Jeff Withey got time. When even Favors fouled out, then Diaw came in and played center. When the Jazz needed perimeter defense, Dante Exum came in and provided it.
"It's easy to kind of fade in and out when your minutes are so variable as they've been," coach Quin Snyder said. "I've done that to our guys, and I know it's hard. But there's no real alternative."
Tonight, all of the pieces of the puzzle came together for the Jazz to get their biggest win in nearly 10 years.
2. Derrick Favors stepping up
Rudy Gobert couldn't stay out of foul trouble all night, and ended up playing only 13 minutes. He picked up his second foul three minutes into the game, his third foul with 10 minutes left in the first half, his fourth with 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and his fifth with 10 minutes left in the game, before finally fouling out with a minute to go. Some of those called fouls were not actually fouls, but anyway.
In other words, it was pretty much worst-case scenario for the Jazz and Gobert, except for that they have a very, very good backup center in Derrick Favors. And Favors was phenomenal: he had 17 points on 8-11 shooting. He got 11 rebounds, including four offensive ones. He even added three assists.
And he was the major defensive reason Paul had his worst game of the series.
Why's that? Well, the Jazz had Favors play higher up on the perimeter when DeAndre Jordan set screens, which didn't let Paul get to where he wanted on the floor.
"We talked about our bigs just getting up a little bit more," Hill explained. "Being active, making him hit DeAndre (Jordan) on the short roll and making them make plays. They did a great job of really being aggressive in the pick-and-rolls and not letting (Paul) get to his cutbacks and things like that."
Even Paul noted that in his postgame press conference. "They did a good job of shrinking the court, Paul said. "That means being the big being up in the ball screen. I've got to figure out ways to do that anyway."
Well, he didn't figure it out in the course of Game 7. And that meant that, instead of scoring 30, Paul scored 13. And, sure, DeAndre Jordan had the ball in his hands a lot, and ended up with 24 points and 17 rebounds, but the Jazz were willing to give some of those opportunities up to limit Paul's contributions.
Favors was understandably proud of his contributions, but interestingly, put the credit to his teammates for the work they did earlier in the season.
"You know, it feels real good. I was struggling a lot this season with injuries, and my teammates had to hold it down for me while I was out," Favors said. "But I felt like I owed them, especially in this game. I just wanted to come out, be aggressive, and make sure I had their backs."
He did that. Thanks, in part, to the phenomenal game from Favors, the Jazz are playoff series winners.
3. Gordon Hayward's series
I think sometimes I don't write enough about Hayward. He just finished up a series where he averaged 23.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and three assists in 36 minutes a night. Oh, and that came on 47 percent shooting from the field, 45 percent shooting from 3, and 96 percent shooting from the free throw line.
But wait! He picked up food poisoning in Game 4, so he only played nine minutes and scored only 3 points in that game. So what are his stats once you take that out?
Well, then he averaged 27.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game on pretty much those same percentages as above. That's crazy! Early in the series, we talked about the excellent job that Luc Mbah a Moute was doing on Hayward. His length seemed to be bothering Hayward, and he couldn't find any separation.
Hayward figured him out by the end of the series. He found ways to get the ball in space through multiple screens off the ball, which let him move forward to attack the basket. Snyder worked to get him in situations where he could get going early.
And then, honestly, he just became really determined to score at times. Like, look at this and-one. Hayward has to split a double, and go through DeAndre Jordan, who is a gigantic human being. Jordan fouls him pretty hard here, and Hayward is still able to get the shot up and in, and then make the free throw.
This is a very good and-one from Gordon D. Hayward: pic.twitter.com/ZFLKPTWZYH— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) April 30, 2017
Hayward and the Jazz are flying to Oakland Sunday afternoon, thrilled about what they've done this season. As Boris Diaw said, they just didn't want to stop having fun together.
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