Jamal Crawford

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Clippers coach Doc Rivers leaves door open for starting Paul Pierce in Game 6 against Jazz

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The Clippers have four sure-fire starters: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and DeAndre Jordan.

The fifth spot is up for grabs with Blake Griffin‘s season-ending injury.

Marreese Speights started Games 4 and 5 against the Jazz. Paul Pierce started the second half of Game 5.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

When asked if Marreese Speights or Paul Pierce would start against the Jazz in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series in which the Clippers trail 3-2, Rivers said, “Yeah, one of them.”

“Paul was good,” Rivers said. “He’s been good throughout the series overall, I will say that. But he’s got to play better too, especially with his second effort, getting out to the shooters and stuff like that.”

There are no good options here.

Pierce, 39, has looked washed up most of his time in L.A. That the Clippers have outscored Utah by nine points in his 58 minutes seems like a product of small sample size.

Speights starting leaves the Clippers vulnerable at center when Jordan sits, and rather than staggering, maybe they ought to just start differently.

Rivers wants to ease the ball-handling burden on Paul, but one choice to do that – Raymond Felton – would be a defensive liability. Another possibility – Jamal Crawford – would present the same defensive issues and sabotage second-unit scoring.

Austin Rivers could bridge the gap, but he’s just returning from his own injury.

Doc Rivers clearly doesn’t trust Wesley Johnson, and the forward’s Game 5 gaffes won’t change that.

The Clippers’ central problem: They have only one player – Luc Mbah a Moute – who can guard Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson. When those Jazz forwards share the court, especially in crunch time, the Clippers face one massive mismatch.

Is relying on Pierce a good option? No way. But it also might be the Clippers’ best option.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.

Joe Johnson hits high-arcing game winner, Jazz upset Clippers 97-95 in Game 1

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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

Carmelo Anthony on playing for Clippers: “There was an opportunity during the deadline”

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If Phil Jackson had been direct with Carmelo Anthony and his people, come to them back in January and said, “we want to go another direction, and we want to help you find a trade destination that works for both of us” this whole thing could have been avoided. Instead, Jackson played mind games trying to get Anthony to waive his no-trade clause, and Anthony dug in his heels. So Anthony is still in NYC, and the wheels have come off the team.

Could there have been a deadline trade with the Clippers, a destination Anthony would reportedly accept? He suggested so in a conversation with Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“Nah, don’t start,’’ Anthony said when asked if he envisions making L.A. his workplace. “I haven’t thought about it. There was an opportunity during the deadline. There was always talk the last couple of seasons being connected to Clippers or Lakers. Somehow always been connected. First it was the Lakers. Now it’s the Clippers situation. I try not to think about it — especially now when I’m still playing with the New York Knicks and got to prepare to play against these guys.’’

There are 13 games left before Anthony’s critical exit meeting with Knicks president Phil Jackson. According to a source, Jackson hopes Anthony is at least open to seeing if the Knicks can find an agreeable trade in the summer.

There are two things here.

The big one is about the potential of Jackson asking Anthony if he is open to a trade this summer. That has been kind of expected, and Anthony sounds like a guy ready to move on, but Jackson needs to go through the process and work with ‘Melo and his team on this. I expect we will see Anthony moved this summer.

Maybe to the Clippers, which brings me to the second thing out of Anthony’s comments. At the deadline the Clippers were making a lowball offer — no Chris Paul, no Blake Griffin, and not even J.J. Redick were part of a trade. It was Jamal Crawford (at age 37), Austin Rivers, and whatever else is left at the end of the Clippers roster (they don’t have a first-round pick they can trade for three years). Jackson should never have taken that offer.

The Clippers very likely will have a lot of questions to answer this summer, especially after they get bounced in the first round (by the Jazz, that is a toss up series) or the second round by the Warriors. Paul, Griffin, and Redick are all free agents, how much is owner Steve Ballmer willing to pay to bring them all back? Should they bring them all back? Should Doc Rivers give up his GM role and focus on coaching? There is a lot of soul searching for the Clippers to do, and where Anthony does or does not fit into all of that is a separate topic.