This was what the Clippers had expected this series.
With Rudy Gobert sidelined with a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise, Los Angeles threw a party in the lane — 60 points in the paint, eight offensive rebounds, and just two shots were blocked. They played downhill, to use Doc Rivers’ postgame phrasing. DeAndre Jordan thrived most of all, the Clippers’ center had 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter, he was getting dunks at the rim and dominating the glass. Clipper guards were driving the lane with impunity — heck, even Paul Pierce had a driving layup at one point.
“We just wanted to be aggressive,” Chris Paul said after the game. “DJ (Jordan) was great, Blake (Griffin) was great, but our guards were just getting in the paint.”
The Jazz scrapped and stayed within striking distance, but the Clippers held on for a 99-91 win. That evens the series at 1-1 heading back to Utah for Game 3 Friday night.
This game was what the Clippers wanted in that their three stars had big outings. Jordan was a force early and finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, Blake Griffin led the way with 24 points including the dagger three, and Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists, and he owned the game in the fourth quarter.
But the key was Los Angeles attacking the vacuum left by Gobert’s absence — Los Angeles shot 27-of-33 in the restricted area Tuesday. Defensively, other Jazz players did not step up and help enough.
Utah also could not generate consistent offense. They struggled mightily early, shooting just 29.4 percent in the first quarter, and while that improved the Jazz were rarely efficient for longer than a short stretch. Gordon Hayward led Utah with 20 points on 5-of-15 shooting, while Joe Johnson became the guy the team leaned on to create shots and he finished with 13 points on 15 shots.
Derrick Favors, who was so crucial for the Jazz in Game 1, had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting but didn’t have the same impact.
The Clippers came out of this game both even in the series and with something to build upon. They were the aggressors and will look to carry that over, plus they didn’t have a great shooting game from the outside (6-of-20 from three), and that should change with time. Los Angeles would like to get J.J. Redick going next game, he hasn’t had a lot of space to work in the first two (it’s not like the Jazz are worried about Luc Mbah a Moute, so they have stuck tight with Redick and helped).
For the Jazz, they fought and kept the game close, and going home they have to think some role players will step up (such as Rodney Hood or Joe Ingles, both of whom were okay but not great in Game 2).
Utah got the split on the road to start the series. Now they need to protect their home court.
Gobert would help with that, but it’s not known when he will return. Coach Quin Snyder said recently Gobert would be out “a week or two,” which would seem to make at least Friday unlikely. But nobody really knows.