The Jazz, tell the story. The Salt Lake City team is 2-0 in the Western semi-finals and is two wins, just two, away from the first conference finals since 2007. And with the best record in the NBA, something they haven’t achieved since the last century. That spirit, that of John Stockton and Karl Malone, that of the ring that they could not get, is now the one that is inside the heart of a Mormon hobby during the day but very noisy when it comes to watching basketball, aggressive with the rival, connected with its players and focused on being one more in a game in which there is everything and now, also an audience. That can be differential for the Jazz, who proved to have more wood than people assumed. by achieving four consecutive victories against the neophyte Grizzlies. And now they go straight to the West finals, after taking a 2-0 lead against a team that is supposed to have a lot of talent, but that does not stop showing its enormous deficiencies.
And they are not Stockton and Malone, but they have wickers to be, at least, equal to or better than them. Rudy Gobert went to 13 points and 20 rebounds after being voted Best Defender in the NBA, in addition to adding 2 steals and 3 blocks. And Donovan Mitchell, in a display worthy of a star, follows his playoffs, as if nothing and no one cares: 37 points (27 in the first half) and a resolution at the end full of attitude and signs that he is much more than just an All Star. The guard averaging more than 32 points per game in the playoffs, emboldened his team in the first round after being out in the opening duel and endorsed 45 points to the Clippers in the opening of the semifinal series. And he still does not know the defeat this year in the playoffs (the game that was not lost to the Jazz), a part of the season in which it grows without comparison.
Quin Snyder’s team did everything right. He appeased the urgency of a rival team that has lost the first game, escaped in a second quarter in which a defensive master class was seen on the court and they closed the game like true veterans, at the end, when his rivals tried by all means to scratch an impossible victory. Now, Utah is ahead two zero and is closer than ever to returning to the last round of the West, something they have not done for 14 years, still with Jerry Sloan as coach and people like Deron Williams or Carlos Boozer as protagonists. And the Clippers walk away from that round, which they have never reached in half a century, and remain in the same situation as against the Mavericks (2-0), only now they have lost on the road. The only silver lining you can look at, that’s for sure.
The quartermaster and a bad Kawhi
In the Jazz, everything worked like a perfect machine. Joe Ingles, providential at the end, went to 19 points with 4 of 7 on triples. Bogdanovic added 16, O’Neale 8 and Jordan Clarkson, 24 from the bench with 6 of 9 from the outside and with a great defensive attitude. Quin Snyder rotated well. I made the right decisions at the right moments, and evidenced the lack of answers from Tyronn Lue, who does not hit the key and sees no way to stop Mitchell (who got scared at the end), or to do it with a team that, remember, he still does not have Mike Conley, who continues to watch the games in a suit and has no return date. If he comes back, The Jazz will be reinforced by an experienced man and one of the most reliable players in the competition. And the Clippers, without him on the court, have wasted not one, but two bullets to take a game out of Utah and get a field advantage they don’t have.
The main problem the Clippers had was Kawhi Leonard. Or its absence, mainly; The star already demonstrated in the sixth game against the Mavericks the magnitude he can reach (45 points against Luka Doncic and company), but he is far from being that player who was on the path of legend, first in the Spurs and then in the Raptors. In the second game against the Jazz he stayed at 21 points and hid too much in the fourth quarter, where he only tried four pitches to score one. Yes it was good Paul George (27 + 10 + 6) and Reggie Jackson (29 points), but the Clippers need much more from Kawhi if they want to get back into the tie and have a chance to play the first Western finals of their existence. Because if, the Jazz fight history. But the Clippers fight is worse. Basically, because they have the worst possible rival: themselves.