SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz held serve at home and fought off a Los Angeles Clippers' rally to take a 2-0 lead in the second-round series with a 117-111 win in Game 2.
Let's go to the comments ...
"Glad they won but they got lucky. A zone crushed them. A zone that they have played since junior high crushed them. I hope we can get at least 1 win in LA." — fishstoriesareforthefishes ·
The Clippers switched to zone a little under three minutes into the third quarter and promptly went on a 23-6 run. A rewatch of the second half showed the Clippers went into zone on about 21 possessions (some were too quick to truly see), and the Jazz scored 13 points on those — not great.
"We missed 21 straight Game 1, and then we couldn't buy a bucket this game when they went to zone — so that's gonna happen," Donovan Mitchell said.
As effective as the zone was on some possessions, there were just as many where the Jazz just missed (or didn't take) open shots. The key for Utah, and really any other team, to break any defense is to get into the paint, make the defense collapse and swing the ball.
Here's one of the first possessions after LA went to zone:
Joe Ingles gets into the paint, the defense collapses and the Jazz swing the ball to Royce O'Neale, who side dribbles into a wide-open look — that he doesn't take. Sure, Mitchell at this point was a walking inferno, but still, O'Neale has to take that shot.
This is the very next possession:
Mitchell gets into the paint and draws a huge crowd before forcing up a layup attempt. Look at him after the play, jumping and pointing at Bojan Bogdanovic. Mitchell knew he missed the kick out for the open 3.
Speaking of 3s, the Clippers' zone gave up pretty much any wing 3 the Jazz wanted. Utah just had to be quick to fire.
One pass and there was an open shot. It was just a matter of if the shot was gonna fall. For a long period of time in the third, they didn't.
But in the first possessions of the Clippers going to zone, the Jazz had a look at a wide-open 3 that wasn't taken, a missed read that should have led to an open 3, and then any wing 3 they wanted. That's not terrible.
Even better: As the quarter went on, the Jazz figured out better reads against it.
The Jazz go pick-and-roll against the zone here, which brings the big up. Mitchell is able to break the paint and find Derrick Favors on a roll — Favors just misses the layup.
The zone changed some of Utah's reads here and there, but looking at the success they already had against it coupled with a couple days of film, it doesn't appears like the Jazz should have much trouble with the zone going forward.
"Waiting for all the people who posted about the jazz losing in 4…..I will wait…..still waiting." — DougBradyFamily1
There were plenty of these types of comments, so let's look at the landscape of the second round thus far.
The narrative entering the second round (and really the playoffs as a whole) was that it was one of the more wide-open tournaments in a long time. The reason? The teams at the top.
The last time any of the remaining eight teams had made it to the finals was in 2003 when the Nets, still in New Jersey, were crushed by the San Antonio Spurs. The last championship from the remaining eight was in 1983, won by the 76ers. In the West, Utah has the most-recent Finals appearance of the remaining four teams — a short 23 years ago.
Since it was certain that a team was going to erase years of heartbreak, the narrative became that all were relatively equal. But the first few games of the second round have shown what the regular season already had: The Jazz, Suns, Nets and 76ers are really, really good.
The four teams that won the most games in the regular season have won the most games in the postseason, right on par with just about every other season. Series can obviously still swing — the Clippers, for example, came back from an 0-2 deficit in the first round — but as of now, it looks like the regular season might be more predictive than originally thought.
"How is Donovan's health (ankle)? He looked like he was in pain. Hoping he is not hurt!" — macgriff10
Mitchell has arguably been the best player in the playoffs, averaging 32.7 points on ridiculous efficiency. He's played 195 minutes and has scored 196 points to lead the Jazz to six victories, and his team has yet to lose when he plays.
With 12.0 seconds to go on Thursday, Paul George collided with Mitchell sending him to the court. The Jazz star was in obvious pain and spent a long while regrouping on the ground before he was helped up by his teammates. When he got to his feet, he was clearly favoring his right leg — Mitchell missed more than a month with a right ankle injury, including Game 1 of the first round.
Donovan Mitchell went down after a collision with Paul George toward the end of Game 2. pic.twitter.com/Y9ihXhDLDN— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2021
He remained in the game for the final seconds, but limped into the tunnel as he left the court.
"I'm great. No problems," Mitchell said after the game.
"I got hit. It hurt, but I'm fine now. I walked in here. I can sprint for you, if you want me to," he responded after a follow-up question.
But even before getting tripped up, Mitchell looked gassed. Dealing with switches, Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverly and everything else adds up. For the most part, he handled everything the Clippers threw at him, but with Mike Conley not being available in the first two games of the series, fatigue has started to set in. Conley has not yet been ruled out of Game 3.
Mitchell will fight through the tired and sore legs, no doubt, seemingly on a mission to will this Jazz team as far as his body allows. And at this point, that's the only thing that's been able to slow him down.