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Game 3 Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz

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The Los Angeles Clippers went into Game 2 looking to even the series after suffering defeat at the hands of Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson’s buzzer-beater in Game 1. Despite the Game 1 upset, the Clippers had reason to maintain their confidence after Rudy Gobert suffered an unfortunate knee injury that may sideline him for the remainder of the series. Heading into Game 2, the Clippers coaching staff harped on the need to push the ball aggressively and not allow the Utah defense to get set.

The Clipper players seemed to have gotten the message. From the start of Game 2, the Clippers made a concerted effort to push the pace and built an early lead. Behind the aggressiveness of Blake Griffin and several dunks by DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers attacked the rim early and often. After hitting their first five field goals, the Clippers built an 11-point lead.

The Jazz displayed resiliency and succeeded in not being discouraged by the Clippers’ early success on offense. The Jazz again employed a defensive strategy that focused on stopping J.J. Redick. The Jazz held Redick to four points and zero three-pointers for the game — a significant achievement considering Redick’s importance to the Clippers’ offensive attack.

Going into the second half, the Jazz adjusted to the Clippers’ change of pace and continued to stick around before cutting the lead to three on a bucket from forward Derrick Favors. A switch on defense between Chris Paul and Griffin allowed Jazz forward Boris Diaw to post up the smaller Paul. Diaw then passed to Favors down low for the basket and the free throw (which Favors missed). This would be the closest the Jazz would get, though, as Paul immediately responded with a 28-foot three-point jumper, an emphatic block on guard George Hill, a steal against Hill and another basket to push the lead back to eight.

However, the Jazz never relented and stuck around as the fourth quarter got underway. At one point, Head Coach Doc Rivers allowed an all-bench lineup without Paul, Griffin or Jordan to run the floor. The Clippers are fortunate that lineup didn’t allow the lead to completely evaporate before Griffin returned.

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles has continued to do all the little things to help the Jazz win, including hounding Redick. With the game still fairly close in the fourth quarter, the Clippers threatened to pull away on a Paul three-pointer. Instead, Ingles immediately responded with a three-pointer of his own.

With Redick and Clippers guard Jamal Crawford missing all seven of their collective three-point attempts at that point, Griffin knocked down a huge three-pointer with Jazz down six and threatening to close the gap.

This series will continue to center around adjustments and strategy. Look for the Vivant Smart Home Arena to be a hostile environment for the Clippers in Game 3. The Jazz will look to try to combat the Clippers’ aggressive offensive attack around the rim, which will continue to be difficult without Gobert. Favors has done well sliding into the center role, but is not able to replicate the backline shot blocking abilities and mobility of Gobert.

The Jazz allowed backup center Jeff Withey to play, but he appeared overmatched. Withey scored just two points and pulled down two rebounds in nine minutes of action. The Jazz coaching staff will have to decide if Withey is good enough to stay on the floor or if they need to find another solution at the center. Withey can impact the game, but he will likely have a short hook in Game 3.

Although the Clippers shot well throughout the game, the Jazz stuck around by moving the ball well and finding open shooters. The three-point shot kept the Jazz in the game, as they shot 40 percent from distance. The Clippers will need to do a better job of running Utah’s shooters off the three-point line and contesting their attempts from beyond the arc.

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This continues to be a well-matched series and the Jazz continue to hold home court advantage after stealing Game 1. Look for the Clippers to keep pushing the pace and attacking the rim relentlessly. The Jazz will try to slow the Clippers down and continue their hot streak from distance. The Jazz will also look for new ways to free forward Gordon Hayward from forward Luc Mbah a Moute’s expert defensive coverage. Similarly, the Clippers will look to generate some open looks for Redick, who has been stifled so far in this series. If Doc Rivers rolls out another all-bench lineup, look for the Jazz to capitalize quickly.

Utah certainly misses the presence of Gobert, but with hot shooting, a return to their home court and time to game plan for the Clippers’ aggressive offensive attack, the Jazz have reason to be confident moving forward.

Prediction: Utah takes Game 3.

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About James Blancarte

James Blancarte

James Blancarte is a writer for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney based in Los Angeles, California.