George Lifts Shorthanded Clippers As Injuries Catch Up To Jazz

Jun 17, 2021, 12:22 AM
Donovan Mitchell lays on the floor in the Utah Jazz loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (Photo by Alex...
Donovan Mitchell lays on the floor in the Utah Jazz loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz lost game five 119-111 to the Los Angeles Clippers, and with it control of the series, now trailing three games to two in the best of seven matchup.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 32 points for the Jazz, but most of his damage was done during his 18 point first quarter as the Jazz offense struggled mightily to shoot the ball from the three-point line in the second half.

Paul George had his best game of the series so far, scoring 37 points in Utah to wrestle away home-court advantage and bring the Clippers to within one game of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

Clippers Win War Of Attrition

If the Clippers were supposed to be the more injured team heading into game five without Leonard, nobody told them.

Though the Jazz opened the game with an explosive 37 point first quarter on an incredible 13-18 shooting including 10-15 from the three-point line but owned just a one-point lead.

Offensively, it was the type of quarter the Jazz used all season to blow opposing teams out of the water at Vivint Arena. Traditionally, their overwhelming shooting and intimidating fanbase have been enough to bury the opposition.

However, the Clippers shorthanded offense had an answer for every Jazz make, knocking down 5-8 threes, and recording six steals leading to easy baskets on the other end.

Upon closer inspection, it was clear there was one thing missing the Jazz typical offensive explosions — Donovan Mitchell. The two-time All-Star scored just three points and attempted only two shots during the run, revealing early on that he was the furthest from 100 percent that he’d been so far in this series.

Though Mitchell finished the night with 21 points, he needed 19 field-goal attempts to get there, knocking down only six shots en route to his lowest scoring output of the postseason.

Working around the injured ankle that cost him 17 games late in the season, Mitchell didn’t have the quickness, change of pace, or direction to get into the paint and finish at the rim.

“For most of my life I’ve been able to push by, explode by, jump through people, over people,” Mitchell said. “For the first time in my career, I’ve had to play on the floor.”

Mitchell was still able to record five rebounds and five assists but wasn’t able to carry the large offensive load the Jazz have grown accustomed to throughout the season.

“He’s the guy in our group that really oftentimes has the responsibility, and it can be a heavy one, of generating shots for himself, or going by and creating, and getting other people looks,” Snyder said.

Once the Jazz hot shooting in the first quarter subsided, the Clippers’ steadier execution and healthier star gained control of the game.

Paul George lifted the Clippers with a magnificent 37 point, 16 rebound, five assist performance to draw the attention of the Jazz defense, freeing his teammates for easy looks. Marcus Morris rewarded Paul by knocking down 10-16 shots for 25 points, while Reggie Jackson added 22 important points on 8-15 shooting.

Though Bogdanovic scored 32 points and tied a franchise record with nine made threes, ultimately it wasn’t enough without Mitchell playing at a superstar level to regain control of the series.

Storylines That Disappeared During The Series

A few major storylines that dominated the Jazz’s first two wins of the series have vanished over the last three games, just like their series lead.

After having an answer for every Clippers run with a big three-point shot during games one and two, the Jazz went ice cold from three in the second half. The Jazz connected on just 3-24 threes over the final 24 minutes of the game, including 0-10 in the third quarter to allow the Clippers to regain control of the series.

Tyronn Lue’s frantic search for lineups was nowhere to be seen in-game five, even without Leonard in the lineup. Rather than playing a 10 and 11 man rotation in the first half like he did to open the series, Lue stuck with a tight nine-man rotation, inserting Rajon Rondo for nine minutes to fill the gaps, while upping the minutes for his other eight players.

After realizing he had an advantage against the Jazz defensive scheme with a smaller lineup on the floor, Lue rarely deviated, and it’s led to three consecutive wins.

Also gone is Mitchell’s superstardom. Through no fault of his own, Mitchell’s ankle has abandoned him, and without the ability to chip in 45 and 37 point performances, the Jazz managed to score only 111 points in the loss.

While Mitchell faded in game five, Morris continued his high level of play. After scoring just 17 points on 25 shots in games one and two, Morris has made 19 of his last 32 attempts for 55 points, 49 of which have come in the last two games.

Jazz Face Must-Win Game On Friday

The Jazz now face a must-win game six on Friday, their first must-win game of the season. The Jazz have been front runners for most of the year, owning the best record in the league for all but two days over the final three months of the season.

With Mitchell hobbled, all eyes will turn to the health of Mike Conley and his ability to return before game six.

The Jazz have missed a secondary option to attack the paint against the Clippers’ smaller, quicker lineups, a role Conley filled all season. However, after re-aggravating his hamstring injury in game five of the Jazz series against the Memphis Grizzlies, the guard has been sidelined.

If Conley wants to save the Jazz, he has no option but to return on Friday night.

“With the series as close as it is and as tight as it is, I think that [a return] this series is possible, depending on the situation, obviously,” Conley said early Wednesday, “I’ve played through a lot of things in my career and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”

The Jazz now head back to L.A. with their hopes leaning heavily on Conley, and their season on the line.

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George Lifts Shorthanded Clippers As Injuries Catch Up To Jazz