Game 5 Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz

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Blake Griffin is out for the series, Rudy Gobert returned for Game 4 and Gordon Hayward only managed to play in nine minutes due to food poisoning on Sunday night. Each team needed a boost in production from one or several role players with key guys injured or limited. The Los Angeles Clippers got that boost from Jamal Crawford, who finally had a breakout performance in the postseason. However, Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson stepped up for the Utah Jazz and led their team to a 105-98 victory on Sunday night.

Joe Johnson was the hero in this game for Utah, posting 28 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal, while shooting 12-17 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc. His box score stats are impressive but it was his fourth-quarter performance that is the real story of the game. With Hayward out of the game, Johnson went into vintage “Iso Joe” mode. The Clippers deployed ace defender Luc Mbah a Moute to slow down Johnson but even he couldn’t slow down the veteran forward.

Johnson scored 11 straight points during Utah’s fourth-quarter run, punctuated by a pull-up jumper that gave Utah a 91-90 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Johnson then started dishing out timely assists to teammates as the Clippers scrambled their defenders to keep Mbah a Moute on Johnson. With a little over two minutes left, Johnson got Mbah a Moute caught on a pick, leaving him one-on-one with J.J. Redick. Mbah a Moute left Hood at the three-point line to switch back onto Johnson. Johnson swung a quick pass to a wide-open Hood, who buried the three-pointer. Hood then came back on the next possession and got another bucket, extending Utah’s lead to seven with a minute and a half remaining in the game.

Johnson’s fourth quarter performance may have been the story of the game, but there were other significant factors from Game 4 that need to be noted as well.

The Jazz got Rudy Gobert back after he missed the first three games of the series with a knee injury. Gobert was effective in his return, contributing 15 points, 13 rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 24 minutes of action. Gobert looked decently mobile and seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed. If he can maintain this level of play, or even improve on it, he is going to be a big boost for the Jazz moving forward after missing the first three games of the series.

Hood notched 18 points and his three of his five attempts from downtown. However, he struggled with his shooting overall, going just 6-16 from the field. Hood had plenty of open looks, but simply missed several of them. However, Hood hit some big shots down the stretch and was a difference-maker for the Jazz in Game 4.

Aside from Johnson, the biggest contributor of the night for Utah was Ingles. Ingles has played well this series and notched eight points, a career-high 11 assists, six rebounds, two steals and one block in 38 minutes of action. Ingles was extremely effective as a ball-handler and playmaker for Utah’s offense, often finding Gobert for easy looks at the basket. Ingles’ continues to play solid defense while facilitating Utah’s offense, which has been a major factor in this series.

While Utah ultimately won Game 4, the Clippers got some nice performances from key players as well.

Chris Paul was his usual self, contributing 27 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists and one steal while shooting 10-21 from the field and 1-6 from beyond the arc. Paul was a matchup problem for the Jazz most of the night and generated easy looks for teammates consistently. However, he wasn’t able to maintain the Clippers’ lead in the fourth quarter as Johnson and the Jazz caught fire at just the right time.

Jamal Crawford also stepped up in Game 4, posting 25 points, one rebound and two assists while shooting 9-13 from the field and 5-7 from three. He hit his first five shots (3-3 from beyond the arc) missing his first shot towards the end of the second quarter. It’s unfortunate for Los Angeles that they couldn’t capitalize on Crawford’s performance considering how inconsistent he and fellow guard J.J. Redick have been in this series. Speaking of Redick, he struggled again, going just 3-11 from the field. He struggled to create space between himself and Utah’s long wing-defenders and couldn’t knock down the few open looks he managed to get in Game 4. Redick has been a major catalyst for the Clippers’ offense for several years, so he’ll need to get his shot back on track if Los Angeles hopes to pull advance past Utah.

Now the series heads back to Los Angeles with the teams tied 2-2. With Gobert back, Hayward recovering from his illness and Ingles and Johnson clicking, Utah should feel very confidence about their chances in this series. The Clippers will look to bounce back behind the efforts of Paul and DeAndre Jordan, who was effective in Game 4 but often looked fatigued and unable to give consistent effort on defense. Los Angeles too can feel confident in the fact that they controlled most of Game 4 and but for a vintage performance from Johnson would likely have a commanding 3-1 lead in this series. However, they’ll need another big time performance from guys like Crawford, Redick or someone else outside of Paul.

Who Wins Game 5?

Utah has the momentum heading into Game 5, but the Clippers should benefit from a return to their home court. Behind another strong performance from Paul, a more consistent effort from Jordan and more effective defense from Mbah a Moute, the Clippers will take a narrow victory in Game 5.