SALT LAKE CITY — The sweep, expectedly, is off the table. The Los Angeles Clippers hit back with a 132-106 rout in Game 3. It wasn't a great night for the Utah Jazz or for KSL.com readers.
Let's go to the comments ...
"There's the Jazz we all know and love. That was horrible …" — CobraNutty
"They'll choke as usual so don't be surprised when they do." — julie g.
"The Jazz will now go on a 4 game losing streak. They always fail when it counts …" — ForRealsDude
Hopefully Jazz fans have taken a deep breath, gotten some sleep and are now ready to back away from the ledge. There's no sugar coating it: Game 3 was bad. The Jazz didn't limit Paul George or Kawhi Leonard; they allowed Clippers role players to get confident; and the Clippers' physicality really bothered them on the offensive end.
It was a thumping, and one that was made worse when Donovan Mitchell hobbled off the court. He said he's fine and just needs to "manage" the pain.
The fan base could use some pointers after Saturday.
The fun — is that the best word? What about stressful? Painful? Anxiety-inducing? — thing about the playoffs is how a series can switch from game to game.
The Jazz took a punch — a big one — and now we get to see how they'll recover.
"There's a lot of things we can do better," Mitchell said. "We're not going to get too low or too high."
He later added: "This is a series."
A series that just got interesting. The Clippers went nuclear on Saturday. They shot 56% on long 2s and 53% from 3-point range. Those are numbers they aren't likely to repeat, but what about Leonard scoring 34 points and Paul George putting in 31?
"I think just being aggressive, taking shots," Clippers coach Ty Lue said when asked about both George and Leonard have big nights. "With our two guys, we know that they are two of the best in the league. … I don't go to Mastro's (steakhouse) to order the ketchup. I go to order the steak. And tonight, our guys want steak. That's what we need because they have been doing it for us all season long."
Except, they haven't. Saturday was just the fifth time in two seasons that Leonard and George both scored over 30 in a game together. Saturday night was a reminder of why the Clippers went through the trouble to pair Leonard and George together, but it doesn't completely rewrite the narrative surrounding the Clippers.
The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead last year, they've never won a title and have already blown up one All-Star pairing in the last five years. If the Jazz are fighting history, so, too, are the Clippers. The Jazz have never lost a series after being up 2-0, and no team has ever come back from two 0-2 deficits in the same playoffs. Utah was bad in Game 3, but it actually has history on its side moving forward.
"This I know. They need to get Conley back on the floor if they expect to win anything in LA. ..." — Ralph1
Mike Conley stood in a gold letterman's jacket trying to implant wisdom to his team. In the early stages of the game, he leaned down next to Rudy Gobert to share what he was seeing. Near the end, Conley approached Mitchell, who at that point had his ankle wrapped, to offer some of his veteran advice. Conley is trying to stay valuable on the sideline, but after Game 3, it's clear the Jazz need him more than ever on the court.
On the game's opening possession, the Clippers made it clear that life wasn't going to be easy for Utah's offense. After the Jazz won the tip, Mitchell bounced the ball to Joe Ingles to dribble up court. Ingles was met by Nicolas Batum before reaching halfcourt.
"We still scored off it, but it showed what they wanted to do for the night, how they wanted to play," Ingles said.
Mitchell's heroics can provide a great cover-up, but when the Clippers blitz, send late double-teams and are overall more physical on the perimeter, it's hard not to see what the Jazz need: Conley shedding that gold letterman's jacket and being able to play again, especially with Mitchell less than 100%.
Conley averaged double-digit assists in the first four games of the first round. The Jazz as a team had only 15 assists in both Games 3 and 4. The Jazz need Conley's shot creation and Mitchell looks like he needs a little lighter load with him ailing as well. So while there are plenty of questions about schemes and adjustments after Utah's blowout loss, there is one that could very well determine the series: When will Conley be back?
"He's working hard every day to try to get back," coach Quin Snyder said.
"I love him but Favors and Niang have been absolutely atrocious on defense. They're just not even an option at this stage." — Jamesey
The Clippers told Utah the game plan ahead of Game 3. Before the game, Lue said that whenever Derrick Favors is on the court, they are going to right at him. The result? The Jazz finished with a defensive rating of 169 in the 15 minutes Favors players. That's pretty awful. Actually, it's more than awful.
But you didn't have to say "on defense," Jamesey.
Favors has scored just 4 points in the entire series. What's worse? He's not even the least productive bench player for the Jazz. Georges Niang has only 3 points this series and hasn't made a shot since Game 1. Miye Oni, meanwhile, hasn't scored in over 20 minutes of game action.
With Ingles in the starting lineup, the Jazz have gotten offensive production from just one bench player: Jordan Clarkson, and he was just 5 of 16 from the field on Saturday.
If that's all Utah's getting, then Snyder may just consider changing up some rotations — something he has been hesitant to do this season. To their benefit, the Jazz have had one of the most consistent rotations in the NBA. But as seen by the Clippers, who seemed to have found something by adding Patrick Beverly and Terrence Mann to the rotation as the series has gone on, sometimes change can provide a spark.
Gobert is averaging 33 minutes in the series — a number that could go up. He struggled in Game 3, too, but Gobert's been Utah's best player for much of the season. The Jazz could also look at Ersan Ilyasova, who has had plenty of playoff experience. He's not going to solve any defensive issues, but he might provide more of an offensive punch than what the Jazz are getting.
Outside of that and Conley getting back, the Jazz don't have a lot of options.
Trent Forrest? Juwan Morgan? Matt Thomas? Playing an already banged-up team more minutes? The best options might just be to hope Niang and Favors are better.