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Jazz pushed to brink of elimination as Clippers win 3rd straight to take 3-2 series lead

Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) reacts after missing a 3-pointer against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City.

Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) reacts after missing a 3-pointer against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — It's not over; it just feels like it.

Moments after the Los Angeles Clippers pushed the Utah Jazz to the brink of elimination Wednesday with a 119-111 win in Game 5 at Vivint Arena, Rudy Gobert offered up what might be the most surprising quotes of the season.

"There was just no urgency at the beginning of the game defensively," he said.

Urgency? The Jazz were lacking urgency? In Game 5 of a tied series, they were lacking urgency? How is that possible?

"Maybe the fatigue, maybe the fact that Kawhi (Leonard) didn't play, it could be many things," Gobert said. "I just felt like — we know that we have to be a dominant defensive team in order to win."

On Wednesday, though, the Jazz looked much more comfortable simply trying to outshoot the Clippers; and in the first half, it worked. Utah's 10 3-pointers in the first quarter tied an NBA all-time mark and its 17 in the first half was one short of another.

It was a showcase on how lethal the Jazz could be. A 3-pointer from the right corner and from the left corner, a triple in transition after quick passes. Bogdanovic made six straight 3s in the first quarter, Jordan Clarkson had four in the first half and Donovan Mitchell, bum ankle and all, added three of his own before halftime.

Vivint Arena was rocking. And with that kind of shooting performance, how could the Jazz not be rolling to a Game 5 victory? But the scoreboard painted a different picture.

The Jazz went into halftime having shot 56% from deep on 30 attempts — and still were only up by 5 points.

Wait, Utah had one of the best shot-making halves in league history and the team was only up two possessions?

"I felt like maybe we could have been ahead more than we were," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

It turns out that defense is also a little important.

As the Jazz smoked the nets on one end, the Clippers did what they've done since Game 2: dissected Utah's defense for wide open shots. So as Clippers coach Ty Lue followed his team to the locker room for halftime, he had a bit of a skip in his step.

"Them making 17 threes and only being down five, on the road, I felt great about it," Lue said. "I knew we had some things to clean up, but I really felt good at halftime."

And all those good feelings were confirmed once the second half began.

The Clippers went on a 20-7 run after the break and outscored the Jazz 32-18 in the pivotal third quarter. All those 3-pointers the Jazz rained down, they were gone in a sudden offensive drought. Utah went 0 for 10 from the 3-point line as LA took control of the game.

"In a way, I wish we would have missed shots," Gobert said, referring to Utah's first-half shooting surge, "so maybe we would have thought that we needed to play some defense to win this game."

A playoff record for the most 3-pointers in a quarter? A total of 17 triples in the first half? Kawhi Leonard out with an injured knee? A raucous home crowd trying to will their team to a victory? None of that mattered in the end because the Jazz couldn't defend.

The 3s dried up and the Clippers just kept coming at the Jazz. Paul George had 37 points and 16 rebounds, and the Clippers shot 51% from the field and 40% from deep.

"It starts with me," Gobert said. "There's a lot of times when guys went at me and I didn't try to stop them, so it starts with me."

Gobert had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Utah in 42 minutes of play — he got extended minutes for the first time this series. He had four straight offensive rebounds in the third quarter that led to 9 points and helped keep the Jazz at least in the game as the Clippers surged ahead.

But close was all Utah would get after the Clippers took the lead early in the third. Reggie Jackson, who scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, and Marcus Morris Sr., who finished with 25 points, made sure of that.

Mitchell refuted Gobert's claim that the Jazz didn't have urgency in the game, but didn't deny the team wasn't good enough on the defensive end to win a big playoff game.

"We gotta find a way to make it tougher on these guys throughout the full 48," said a clearly hampered Mitchell, who had 21 points on 19 shots. "The last three games have been pretty easy for them offensively."

The Jazz are running out of time to figure it out — actually, they are out of time. Utah is facing an elimination game on Friday in LA as the Clippers look for their first-ever Western Conference finals berth in team history.

"Hopefully we get more urgency in the next game because, now, if we lose, we're going home," Gobert said. "So you can't get more urgency than that."

But you can get close: Game 5 at home in a tied series. And the Jazz didn't have it then.


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