SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are 20-1 in their last 21 games after beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday behind Rudy Gobert's impressive performance.
Here are the talking points after Utah's win over the Clippers from KSL.com commenters.
"The Clippers had three All-Stars sitting on the bench and yet they held a lead at halftime? I know the Jazz feel that they can turn it on at any time, but that is risky when they let the other team actually have a chance."
Did the Jazz have their best game on Wednesday? Certainly not. They shot 32% from three and were just 43% overall. Utah took 14 long twos, attempted only five corner threes and took 21 shots in the paint outside of the non-restrictive area. That's not the shot chart Utah wants.
That's a credit to the Clippers. LA forced Utah into an abundance of shots it didn't want to take. If there was cause for any concern following an 18-point win, that would be it.
As Utah has blitzed the league over the last month-plus, it has seen plenty of defenses. Atlanta hugged to the 3-point line and rarely sent weak side help into the paint. The Celtics switched everything on the perimeter. The Bucks constantly changed looks. Miami threw some zone in there. It's all in an effort to get the Jazz not to take any shot other than threes and ones at the rim.
While the Clippers may have been the best at doing that, it ultimately led to an 18-point Jazz win. Yes, that could be just a case of talent winning out — the Clippers were indeed without three starters — or it simply could be the Jazz doing what they have done in many games before: figuring things out.
As for opponents having a chance, well, you'd be hard-pressed to find any team over the last six weeks that felt like it had a chance of beating the Jazz late in a game. During the 20-1 stretch, Utah has played a grand total of seven clutch-time minutes, defined as the final five minutes of the game and the score within five. And during the current nine-game winning streak, the Jazz have yet to trail in the fourth quarter. Indiana, however, was tied with the Jazz for a little bit in the final — a grand total of 38 seconds.
Average game excitement index by team:— Mike Beuoy (@inpredict) February 14, 2021
The Utah Jazzzzzzzzzzzzzz 😴😴😴 pic.twitter.com/EA2wiJC0vj
"Probably going to boost the hype train...but this team resembles the Mid-2010s Warriors teams. Their ball movement, ability to hit 3's, and maintaining a top tier defense are all similar."
First, let's make this clear: Talent wise, this Jazz team does not stack up with those Warriors. As good as the Jazz have been, they still don't have anyone that's as special offensively as Steph Curry and didn't add a Kevin Durant to a team that won 73 games. That said, Steve Kerr himself even stated the Jazz are "where we were three or four years ago" and there are some numbers that are comparable.
Let's look at net rating, the number teams outscore opponents by per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass (which takes out garbage time and end-of-clock heaves).
2014-15 Warriors: 12.1
2015-16 Warriors: 11.6
2016-17 Warriors: 12.8
2020-21 Jazz: 12.7
The 2016-17 Warriors and the 2020-21 Jazz hold the best net ratings of any team of Cleaning the Glass's database that goes back to 2003-04. That's why it seems to feel like the squads are similar. Yes, the Jazz shoot threes (Utah actually shoots far more than Golden State did during the dynasty years) and use creative ways to get open shots like the Warriors, but what may be the biggest thing is the level of dominance. Golden State was always a two-minute run away from breaking a game open. The Jazz have shown that same ability.
Utah is also currently the only team in the league that has a top five offensive and defensive rating — a staple of those Warriors squads (and frankly, many title teams). But before you get too far ahead of yourself: There were two teams that finished in the top five in both categories last season — Boston and the LA Clippers. Neither made it to the Finals.
"The next test will be a very angry Clippers team Friday night who just got humiliated by the Jazz. You can bet the bank that the Clippers will be seeking revenge in LA. If the Jazz pass this test, look out!"
I'm not sure the Clippers will be "angry" or "seeking revenge" per se, but there does seem to be a perceived disadvantage for the winners of the first game of the two-game sets that the league has implemented this year to limit travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked if he liked the early feel of the playoffs these mini-series can provide, Jazz forward Georges Niang was pretty blunt: "No, not at all."
"I don't really know how to explain it. It's never easy to beat a team twice or three times," Niang said. "And when you have them back to back, what you did to them last game is fresh in their mind and I would much rather play a different team and move on. That's what the playoffs are for."
That said, the Jazz haven't struggled in the back-to-back sets. They went 2-0 against the Pelicans and 2-0 against the Mavericks, with all four wins coming by double digits. And, really, the top teams have been doing exactly what you'd expect the top teams to do: win.
The Lakers are 6-0 in their three sets thus far and the Clippers were 3-1 before facing the Jazz. So outside of a game against each other, the top three teams in the Western Conference are 13-1 in the back-to-back sets.
But that doesn't mean they're preferred.
"It is what it is, but I mean, if I had my preference, I would switch it up a little bit," Niang said. "But hey, we are switching up from last year — you don't usually play teams back to back."