Can Gordon Hayward force the Clippers to make constant adjustments? In three games against the Clippers (he missed one with injury) this season, Hayward was dangerous in only one (a 27-point effort in a 114-108 win in March 13). The Clippers don’t offer a strong, athletic swingman to put him on lockdown. Utah will require Hayward to score either at his average or beyond to give coach Doc Rivers some headaches. Otherwise it could be a short series.
says it all
Can George Hill keep his dream season going? Anyone who thought Hill would be this impactful on the Jazz was perhaps kidding himself. And yet Hill’s first season in Utah ranks as one of the season's bigger surprises. With the Jazz hurting for clever and steady point guard play since Deron Williams left, Hill came and stabilized the position. But now, Paul looms.
I think it's about what could have been hoped for in terms of pure numbers. The numbers he put up pre toe problems couldn't have been hoped for though nor the injuries.
When I watch DeAndre, I watch the way he sets screens. This summer, I wanted to be one of the best screeners in the game, and you study and take things from these players.
What do you think when you hear your general manager Dennis Lindsey say that they want you to be the Utah Jazz's version of Bill Russell?
Gobert: That means that they want to win games. Bill Russell is one of the greatest players of all time. I've never been a big fan of comparisons. It's a totally different era, a different time, but he's a guy that won 11 championships. I wouldn't be mad if that happens to me.
ESPN.com: Are you convinced that you can win a championship with Gordon Hayward as your go-to guy and the core that you have in place?
Gobert: I'm convinced that we can win a championship as a team, yeah. It's not about who the go-to guy is. Gordon is a big part of our team.
The funny and frustrating thing about Utah is it is the most effective transition team in the league. Per Synergy Sports, it averages 1.217 points per possession in transition. It also only used 9 percent of its possessions that way, which is less than every team in the NBA aside from the extremely deliberate Dallas Mavericks (8.8 percent). As a point of reference, the Warriors finished second at 1.207 PPP, but they were in transition a league-high 18.5 percent of the time.
Utah's litany of injury woes forced Snyder to juggle his lineup on an almost daily basis.
But that may have actually been a blessing in disguise to the Jazz because the absence of Favors, Hill and Hood, among others, for long stretches of time allowed guys who were expected to primarily come in off the bench — guys like Johnson, Diaw, Ingles and Exum — to step into the starting lineup and/or get plenty of playing time for Utah.
The depth, talent and versatility of that bench brigade might be Utah's best advantage in this series.
I certainly don't see it as a blessing and they aren't deep! Need to shorten the rotation to even have a chance
Shooting guard: JJ Redick averaged 15 points per game for the Clippers this season, and he is their most experienced postseason performer with 81 playoff games in his career. Utah's Rodney Hood (12.7 ppg) has had an injury-plagued season, but has been solid and, like Redick, can get it going from the 3-point line at times. But this is his first-ever playoff series. Edge: Clippers.
If Ingles is starting like he should be the edge goes to the Jazz
Small forward: This is one area where the Jazz have a decided advantage, as Gordon Hayward (21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists a game) parlayed his steadily improving all-around game into his first All-Star season. Conversely, Luc Mbah a Moute (6.1 ppg) is the weakest link in the Clippers' starting lineup. Edge: Jazz.
Moute shut down Hayward. Edge Clipprs until Hayward proves otherwise
Center: Rudy Gobert has emerged as one of the best big men in the NBA, and his 14.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and league-leading 2.6 blocks per game only begin to describe his value to the Jazz organization. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman shot 66 percent from the field, second in the league only to his Clippers counterpart, DeAndre Jordan, who checked in with averages of 12.7 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. Jordan and Gobert rank third and fourth, respectively, in rebounding, but it's Gobert's tremendous improvement on the offensive end of the floor that has made him a legitimate weapon this season. Edge: Jazz.
Rudy did not play bad against the Clippers but Deandre was better. Got to give him the edge. Should be a great battle though!
Jazz: Joe Johnson (9.2 ppg), Shelvin Mack (7.8 ppg), Joe Ingles (7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds. 2.7 assists per game), Dante Exum (6.2 ppg) and Boris Diaw (4.6 points, 2.3 assists per game) have combined forces to give Utah's hopes for success a huge boost, especially in the wake of the team's injury woes this season. That group started a combined 99 games so, should Snyder decide to start Diaw or Johnson at the power forward spot, it would move Favors to the bench, where he would provide a superb backup to Gobert at center. Alec Burks and Jeff Withey have also had their moments off the bench for the Jazz. Utah's versatility in its lineup, with Ingles and Johnson more than capable of playing multiple positions, is one of the team's greatest assets.
Don't forget Neto who could be back at some point.
Clippers: Jamal Crawford could be the biggest wild card in this series. The veteran guard averaged 12.3 ppg this season, and he exploded for a 28 points in their most recent victory over the Jazz on March 25. Big man Marreese Speights (8.7 points, 4.5 rebounds a game), guard Raymond Felton (6.7 ppg) and Brandon Bass (5.6 ppg) have also been key contributors for the Clippers, who will sorely miss guard Austin Rivers (12.0 ppg), who suffered a hamstring injury in late March and is doubtful until probably Game 4 of this series.
I think even without Rivers they are much deeper. Crawford is a Jazz killer.
Jazz: Quin Snyder is regarded as one of the brightest and best young coaches in the NBA, and the Jazz have shown steady and at times remarkable improvement in his three years at the helm. He and his staff did a masterful job of finding a way to navigate their lineup through a season which was ravaged by injuries to key players, and their amazing juggling act produced 51 victories in what should earn Snyder some strong NBA Coach of the Year consideration. But this will be the first playoff series of his head coaching career.
Clippers: Veteran coach Doc Rivers has guided his teams — in Orlando, Boston and now Los Angeles — to a total of 14 postseason appearances, including four straight in L.A. His Celtics teams won an NBA championship in 2008 and lost in the NBA Finals in 2010. In all, he has 154 playoff games on his resume as a head coach, though his overall record (78-75) is barely over .500.
Both highly overrated. I'd give the edge to Rivers based on experience. So Jazz have the edge at one position if Ingles starts.
Clippers: Won their last seven games and 11 of their last 13 to close out the regular season. ... Paul, Griffin and Redick are all in the final years of their contracts and are pending free agents, so this team's sense of urgency is running at an all-time high, with speculation that the franchise may blow things up and start over if they don't make a deep playoff run this year. ... This club has lost at least one home game in each of its last six playoff appearances.
Jazz need to win at least one in LA. Probably more
the franchise proactively traded away Deron Williams, not knowing if he'd stay in free agency, following Jerry Sloan’s surprising midseason retirement in 2011.
keep telling yourselves that. He was traded because Jerry quit. Why hasn't Hayward been traded? He has committed to staying either?
Both O’Connor and Lindsey knew a monumental task was ahead for a franchise that had had limited success with Tyrone Corbin as head coach and Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as its centerpiece players.
Limited success, they determined, wasn’t good enough for an organization and ownership that craved a championship.
“Kevin was really honest with me,” Lindsey recalled. “He was like, ‘Hey, look. I couldn’t do this.’ It wasn’t in his general nature to rebuild.
“But as we evaluated things he said, ‘It’s the right thing to do.’”
So Lindsey and O’Connor decided to start over with young prospects Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.
You were wrong. Imagine Millsap and Demarre on this team!
The following year — after a miserable 25-win start-from-scratch season and an ongoing struggle between allowing proven veterans to play to get immediate results vs. developing younger guys for the future — Lindsey decided to part ways with Corbin (and, essentially, the Sloan era).
“At a certain point and time,” Lindsey said, “we were headed in two different directions.”
Might as well get rid of Rudy than. You still act like you want to lose games. He ruined the grand plan.
Even Lindsey, without going into detail, admits that imperfections have occurred, although truth serum might get him to concede that not adding veteran free agents in the 2015 offseason was an understandable-but-misguided move; that letting Millsap, now a four-time All-Star, leave the franchise was a mistake; that errors have occurred in a frustrating search for a stable and productive point guard, including how trading two first-round picks for Trey Burke didn’t pan out as hoped; and that giving Kanter away to rival Oklahoma City for pennies on the dollar wasn’t ideal (even if the move did open the door for Gobert), among other things.
“There were a bunch of decisions to be made,” Lindsey said. “Would we do some over if we could because hindsight is 20-20? Sure.”
If you'd kept Millsap, Kanter wouldn't have even been in the picture because they wouldn't have sucked. You would have had Millsap, Hayward, Favors, Demarre, etc. Rudy could have still been had too. Not going all in once Rudy emerged is the biggest problem and still is at the moment. Really sad that this could be their best team and it's going to be broken up this summer already.
Dealing for a veteran with a high basketball IQ who can help teammates learn how to share and be a positive influence on and off the court like Boris Diaw?
and a bad move. Hanlan looked good. Diaw has been up and down and will be gone soon
Building a roster with enough depth and talent so that it could even produce 51 wins in a year when injuries ravaged nearly the entire team at different points after the same scenario kept the team out of the playoffs in 2015-16?
not building the best roster intentional?
The next chapter is about helping that rebuilt team elevate its level in the playoffs. That story begins Saturday night.
Snyder wouldn’t take the bait and reveal what lineups he might use during the playoffs.
For one of the rare times all season, the Jazz have all but one player to choose from, with Raul Neto the only player on the injured list with a sprained ankle. When asked about how he might use his rotation in the playoffs, Snyder was purposely vague.
“Our players aren’t worried about that and I’m not worried about it,” he said. “We’re going to play to win and compete and whoever’s ready, the game will dictate that. We’ve got some continuity based on how we’ve played the last couple of games, and that’s where we begin and go from there.”
Diaw and Ingles start. I don't think it was an accident that Favors and Hood finally came off the bench when they returned this time. Should have happened a lot sooner
Asked specifically about the point guard situation, where Shelvin Mack, Dante Exum and Neto have all backed up George Hill, Snyder said he may use Exum at the off-guard spot again, but wouldn’t say whether Exum or Mack will be the primary backup.
Exum isn't ready. Shorten the bench or play Burks one of the guys that actually has been in the playoffs
General manager Dennis Lindsey will have to deal with the possibility of losing forward Gordon Hayward and point guard George Hill from the roster he has constructed.
Ingles has to be mentioned too!
Boston also would be appealing to Hayward, for multiple reasons. The Celtics' Brad Stevens coached him for two years at Butler University, where they established close ties. Boston also is in the Eastern Conference, with less competition to reach the NBA Finals than in the West.
And they will spend money. They have more young talent and more on the way. I wouldn't blame him for leaving
The Jazz acquired Hill last summer to upgrade themselves at point and would have to retool the position if he departs. They may choose to do something before free agency begins July 1, such as trading for another point guard around the time of the NBA draft in late June.
Just a guess or have you heard something? I hope they do something with what cap space they will have left after they give everyone on the team a raise for not paying the minimum cap amount so I can stop being pissed off about it. Hill will be hard to replace. He fits perfectly
Andy Larsen: One exercise I tried in an attempt to figure this out was rank the players from best to worst in the series, from 1 to 20, based on current form. Here’s my list: Chris Paul - LAC; Rudy Gobert - UTA; Blake Griffin - LAC; Gordon Hayward - UTA; DeAndre Jordan - LAC; George Hill - UTA; J.J. Redick - LAC; Joe Ingles - UTA; Joe Johnson - UTA; Rodney Hood - UTA; Derrick Favors - UTA; Austin Rivers - LAC; Mo Speights - LAC; Jamal Crawford - LAC; Luc Mbah a Moute - LAC; Ray Felton - LAC; Boris Diaw - UTA; Brandon Bass - LAC; Shelvin Mack - UTA; Wesley Johnson - LAC.
I'd put Ingles ahead of Redick. Better all-around.
I don’t really believe that Joe Ingles is a better player than Rodney Hood or Derrick Favors. But Jingles has been more impactful than the other two all season long.
A healthy Favors no. He's better than Hood. Hood does one thing.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Gobert and Hayward are capable of having equal, or bigger impacts, in this series than Griffin and Jordan. It will then fall on the shoulders of Hill to close the gap between Paul and himself.
I expect Rudy to be pretty evenly matched but I don't expect much from Hayward. Hill has to have a big series and his last two agmes were encouraging.
In fact, through all of his injuries this year, the Clippers are the only team that Hill played against four times in the regular season, and his numbers left a lot to be desired.
Against Paul, Hill averaged 13 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, with a 42 percent / 35 percent / 57 percent shooting slash line. The 13 points are tied for his fifth-lowest average against any team he faced this season, and his 49 percent true shooting percentage is the sixth worst against any team he’s faced.
If Hill plays to those averages this series, the Jazz are going to struggle to hang around long.
Had a decent game in the first one when he was healthy and kept Paul in check
I don’t want to dismiss the Jazz talent advantage at the back end of the playoff rotation. Going into the series with a rested Joe Johnson, healthier Rodney Hood, and Derrick Favors as your fifth, sixth, and seventh best players is a significant upgrade over Austin Rivers, Mo Speights, and Jamal Crawford.
very debatable especially with the way Crawford has played against the Jazz
Of all five positions, this is where the Jazz find themselves with a clear advantage: All-Star Gordon Hayward against the Clippers' rotating cast of small forward options, all of which aren't starting caliber, and most of which aren't even bench caliber.
And yet they have shut Hayward down in all but one game.
Paul Pierce is now old, your dad on a basketball floor. He can't defend anymore, he can't create separation for his own shot anymore, and he's not such a good catch-and-shoot guy that it makes sense to keep him on the floor. That's why he's only played in 25 games all year long.
They're saving him for now. Wouldn't be surprised to see him do something
That leaves Luc Mbah a Moute, who has started 76 games at the small forward spot for the Clippers. He actually has been a key to the dominant Clippers starting lineup, for two reasons: stellar wing defense and better-than-expected shooting. That starting lineup has played 871 minutes this season, and outscores opponents by 15.1 points per 100 possessions. It's the key to the Clippers' success.
And it's the defense that Mbah a Moute provides that has bothered Utah the most. Gordon Hayward had one great game against the Clippers this year, and it's no coincidence that it was the matchup in which Mbah a Moute found himself in foul trouble early. Hayward finished with 27 points on 9-18 shooting. Again, no coincidence: that's the only game the Jazz won against the Clippers in the regular season.
In the other two games (Hayward missed October's game due to a broken finger), Hayward scored only 10 points per game and shot just 25 percent from the field. It's entirely due to Mbah a Moute. In those three games, when he's on the court, Hayward shot 32 percent from the floor, and the Jazz were outscored by 8 points per 100 possessions. When someone else was guarding him, he shot 54.5 percent, and the Jazz outscored the Clippers by 4.3 points per 100 possessions.
How? Basically, Mbah a Moute's length gives him real problems. Like here, Hayward catches the ball right under the basket. Against most defenders, Hayward would have no problem with going up and scoring here, or at least drawing a foul. But Mbah a Moute just keeps one hand annoyingly vertical, preventing Hayward from doing anything but taking a difficult fallaway, even with that position.
advantage non all-star
So, what do the Jazz do? There are a couple of schools of thought here. First, just as they did in Game 3 of the regular season, you could try to get Mbah a Moute in foul trouble early. It might work, just as it did then.
He doesn't generally get into foul trouble so good luck with that plan! What Hayward does is step up like so called all-stars are supposed to do!
Another alternative is to use Hayward as a decoy, playing 4-on-4 on offense as Hayward stays in a corner or even further out. You'd have to be very confident in Hill, Hood, Favors (or Johnson), and Gobert to generate good looks, though. They probably can do this approach with Johnson spacing the floor and Hill and Hood at their best. Unfortunately, that's rarely consistently been true.
That should be the plan. You would hope Hill can take a lot of pressure off of the all-star like he has when healthy.
If he can cut and finish through contact, work hard on the glass, and set up teammates when the Clippers key on him, he can be Utah's best player. If he's successfully slowed, though, the Jazz's job becomes nearly impossible.
Wouldn't count on it. They have their hands full in this series