Three Things Working, And Not Working For Jazz Vs. Clippers

Jun 14, 2021, 3:28 PM | Updated: 3:29 pm
Donovan Mitchell - Joe Ingles - Utah Jazz...
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz and Joe Ingles #2 react after a basket by Mitchell in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 16, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Jazz 113-107. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, California – The Utah Jazz have a 2-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Clippers, with game four on the horizon tonight in LA.

The Jazz opened the series with two close wins in Utah, before being blown out for almost the entirety of the second half in game three at Staples Center.

With game four just hours away, we look at three things that have worked, and three things that haven’t for the Jazz through the first three games of the Western Conference Semifinals.

What Has Worked For The Jazz Vs. Clippers

1. Joe Ingles And Donovan Mitchell

Though Mike Conley has been unavailable through the first three games of the series against the Los Angeles Clippers, the play of the Jazz starting backcourt has been nothing short of brilliant.

Donovan Mitchell continues to prove he’s one of the league’s most dynamic players, averaging 37.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 47 percent from the three-point line.

Due to Mitchell’s incredible level of play, the work Joe Ingles has done in place of Conley has largely gone overlooked. Through three games, Ingles is averaging 19 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists while shooting a staggering 62 percent from the floor and 60 percent from the three-point line.

This comes after a disappointing opening round where Ingles averaged just 6.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 40 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three. Ingles also leads the team in total plus-minus, as the Jazz have outscored the Clippers by 13 points despite the team being outscored by 17 total over the course of three games.

The Jazz will gladly welcome the more dynamic Conley back to the starting lineup whenever he’s able to return, but in his absence, Ingles has done a much better job than the team could have hoped.

2. The Starting Lineup

Partially fueled by the spectacular play of Mitchell and Ingles, the Jazz starting lineup has been terrific against the Clippers.

In 54 minutes, the Mitchell, Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Rudy Gobert combination has dominant against the Clippers.

The lineup has opened with leads of 10-2, 10-2, and 8-0 in the opening three minutes of each of the first three games of the series. Overall, the group has a net rating of 18.7 while holding the Clippers to an offensive rating of just 95.5.

Now, the trick might be to find a way to get that lineup on the floor together more often after averaging 18 minutes a game to open the series. So far, only Royce O’Neale has played more than 40 minutes in any one game, but with a chance to take advance to the Western Conference Finals on the horizon, inching up the starters’ minutes could be an option.

3. The Three-Point Shooting

As a team that built its identity on aggressively shooting the ball this season, the Clippers have done little to slow the Jazz record-setting three-point attack.

To open the series, the Jazz are averaging 18.7 made threes on an eye-opening 44.3 percent shooting from deep. Both numbers eclipse their regular season averages, and their shooting in the opening-round series against Memphis when they connected on 16.8 threes on 40.6 percent shooting.

Ingles, Clarkson, Mitchell, and Bogdanovic are all shooting better than 43 percent from three, while the four have combined hit 50 deep balls just three games into the series.

Though the Jazz defense faltered in game three, it will be hard for the Clippers to keep up with the Jazz offense if they continue to shoot at this blistering pace.

What Hasn’t Worked For The Jazz Vs. Clippers

1. The Second Unit

While the starting lineup has been terrific for the Jazz, the bench unit has struggled mightily. With Ingles pushed into the starting five, the Jazz second unit is floundering without their go-to offensive stabilizer.

The Jazz’s three worst players from a raw plus-minus standpoint are Clarkson (-34), Georges Niang (-16), and Derrick Favors (-16). Despite Clarkson’s red-hot shooting from three, the Jazz bench has been a major liability in the series.

Through three games, none of the Jazz three most predominant bench players have had a positive plus-minus, with Clarkson’s game one and Niang’s game two +0’s marking the best outings.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have had at least one reserve player with a positive plus-minus in each game this series, despite trailing 2-1.

Though Clarkson is the Jazz’s second-leading scorer through three games, Niang and Favors have combined for just seven points total, which’s equal to the number of turnovers the two have in 75 minutes on the floor.

If the Jazz want an opportunity to face the Suns in the Conference Finals, the second unit will have to create a bigger spark.

2. Three-Point Defense, Sort Of

Not only were the Jazz the fourth-best three-point shooting team in the NBA this season, but they also allowed the second-lowest three-point shooting percentage by their opponents.

During the regular season, the Jazz defense limited opposing teams to just a 34.1 percent complete rate from downtown.

Against the Clippers, who uncoincidentally were the league’s best three-point shooting team this season, the Jazz are allowing a 42.6 percent completion rate on 15.3 makes per game.

While the Jazz still have the slight edge in three-point shooting for the series, their inability to slow the Clippers’ attack has significantly lessened the advantage.

The good news for the Jazz is that the Clippers’ three-point shooting average has been heavily skewed by game three’s impressive 19-36 outing by LA. In games one and two, the Clippers shot a strong, but not insurmountable 37.5 percent from three, both resulting in Jazz wins.

The Jazz won’t be able to slow the three-point shooting of the Clippers entirely in this series, but keep them below the 40 percent mark as they did in Utah would be a good omen for the remaining games.

3. Defending Reggie Jackson

Just as the Dallas Mavericks learned in the opening round, the Jazz are figuring out you can’t read into Reggie Jackson’s game one performance.

After scoring just two points in the Clippers game one opening-round loss to Dallas, Jackson averaged 17.7 points on 45 percent shooting from the floor and 41 percent from three.

Similarly, Jackson fouled out of game one against the Jazz with just nine points in 17 minutes but has since been nearly unstoppable.

Jackson is averaging 23 points while shooting 63 percent from the floor and 64 percent from three over the last two games, including leading the Clippers in scoring in game two with 29 points.

The Jazz won’t be able to shut down either Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, but they can’t let Jackson become a legit third start on the perimeter if they want to win the series. As good as Ingles has been, Jackson’s play has been equally impressive, and the Jazz will have to better gear their defense to stop him if they want to emerge from this series victoriously.

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Three Things Working, And Not Working For Jazz Vs. Clippers