Rudy Gobert, the anchor for the Jazz and arguably their best player, went down with a sprained knee just :11 seconds into the game.
Yet there we were 47:40 later, and Utah’s Joe Johnson had the ball and the chance to win it.
Chris Paul had just tied the game at 95-95 with a running floater — and do not ask Doc Rivers if CP3 went to early — when the Jazz inbounded the ball to Johnson and decided to go without a timeout. This was a brilliant bit of strategy by Utah coach Quin Snyder that I would love to see more coaches employ. In this case, the Clippers had put in a three-guard lineup — Paul, J.J. Redick, and Jamal Crawford — to get the tie, not calling a timeout meant the Jazz would be able to force a mismatch.
They got it, with a switch off a pick that left Crawford — never known as a great defender — trying to cover Johnson, who was hot and had 19 points on 13 shots already. Johnson drove into the lane but had to hit a ridiculous floater over DeAndre Jordan, and Johnson and the Jazz got the bounce.
Utah leads the series 1-0 with game 2 in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Utah got 19 points from Gordon Hayward, but the bigger key was 15 off the bench from Derrick Favors, who had to take on more prominent role with Gobert down. He has a hyperextension and a bone bruise, and while there is no timetable yet for his return, it’s likely he’s going to miss most or all of this series.
Which is why this win was so big for the Jazz.
Utah got to 51 wins this season on the strength of their defense and even with Gobert out that remained strong, with Utah holding the Clippers to less than a point per possession. Blake Griffin had 26 points and Chris Paul 25, but the Clippers shot a pedestrian 44 percent for the night.
There are questions about how well this Clippers team faces adversity, we will get a look at that Tuesday