UTAH JAZZ

Jazz And Clippers Battle Playoff Demons In Second Round

Jun 7, 2021, 2:21 PM
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George defends Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (Photo by Alex Goodlett/G...
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George defends Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As the Utah Jazz prepare to host the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of the playoffs, they do so with the knowledge that the upper hand in the postseason isn’t always what it seems.

After taking a 3-1 series lead last year over the Denver Nuggets, the Jazz were eliminated in seven games after dropping three consecutive games inside the NBA bubble in Orlando.

Entering the second round of the playoffs, the Jazz again find themselves in the driver’s seat, opening the semifinals in Salt Lake City, coming off five days rest, while watching the Clippers battle the Dallas Mavericks for seven games in the opening round.

But after last year’s shortcomings, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell said the Jazz satisfied with this year’s successes.

“Yeah, we were the number one team in the regular season, but at the end of the day it’s like a high school kid with the number one ranking going to college, it doesn’t mean nothing,” Mitchell said.

Rather than ride with the momentum of having earned the best record in the league, Mitchell said the team is more driven by the pain of last season’s surprising exit at the hands of the Nuggets after taking a commanding 3-1 lead.

“It’s so fresh in our mind, we’re at a point where we don’t want to go back to that,” Mitchell said. “And I think that helps.”

The team used that motivation well after earning a 3-1 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round of the playoffs, dominating the eighth seed in game five in Salt Lake City to close out the series with little drama.

“Going up 3-1 against Memphis we made a statement from the beginning that we were going to come out and play a certain way,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t really have to say it.”

While the Jazz are looking to exorcise last year’s playoff demons, the Clippers find themselves in a similar boat.

After acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the summer of 2019, the Clippers were thought of as instant contenders in the West. However, after beating the Mavericks in six games during the opening round of the playoffs, they too surrendered a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets and were sent back in a seven-game series loss.

As both teams try to escape their past, Jazz coach Quin Snyder was quick to point out the dangers of lingering on past failures.

“Last year is last year and this year is this year,” Snyder said after the Jazz eliminated Memphis. “Game three is game three, game five is game five. The thing about this time of year is that it is as important to be able to forget as it is to be able to remember.”

But while the Jazz were able to quickly escape their series with the Grizzlies, even after a surprising game one loss, past playoff failures seemed to weigh more heavily on Los Angeles.

The Clippers dropped three home games to the Mavericks to open this year’s playoffs, resulting in a seven games series against the lower-seeded Dallas roster. Though the Clippers emerged victoriously, it’s clear they’re still vulnerable after last year’s loss.

As both teams try to put their previous playoff failures behind them, Mitchell said he’s looking forward to a matchup with the Clippers.

“They won a series, we won a series,” Mitchell said. “We won in five, they won in seven. At the end of the day it’s zero-zero, none of that stuff before matters. We’ve got to go there and lace them up and be ready to go.”

The Jazz and Clippers open their second-round series on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. The game will tip-off at 8 pm MT, the game will be broadcast on TNT.

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