I heard an announcer in Salt Lake City say, “Bring on the Los Angeles Clippers.”
I’m pretty sure LA would much rather be playing the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic though.
Following a 126-111 Game 7 win over the Mavericks, the Clippers advance to face the team with the best record in the NBA this season in the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz had to wait a couple of days to find out who their next-round opponent would be as they quickly dispatched Ja Morant’s upstart Memphis Grizzlies in 5 games.
The rest was good for the Jazz, as it gave them time to cool off from the heat of playoff competition. But they better be ready to fight a Clippers team fresh off the intensity of a Game 7 win at Staples Center.
Though the Grizzlies gave the Jazz some tough competition, the stakes are higher every playoff round and the Clippers have players who’ve been tested through deep playoff runs.
They are led by Kawhi Leonard a two-time NBA Champion and Finals MVP, who is playing with a chip on his shoulder and understands the kind of fight necessary to advance in the postseason. Slow starts and early turnovers by the Jazz won’t cut it this time around, they’ll need to be at their very best from the opening tip of Game 1.
Size will play a factor in this series as the Clippers don’t have anyone that can competently match up with the “Stifle Tower” aka Rudy Gobert inside. Especially with Serge Ibaka sidelined with back spasms caused by a pinched nerve.
Utilizing the gravity of the pick-and-roll with Gobert will be paramount for the Jazz in this series against the Clippers. The Clippers possess excellent perimeter defenders in Leonard and Paul George, meaning it may be smart to try and score more on the interior with Gobert and Derrick Favors. Expect a heavy diet of pick-and-roll basketball by the Jazz with rim dives from Gobert and others.
The Clippers have two of the league’s best two-way players in the league in Kawhi and PG-13, and it begins and ends with these two on both ends.
The backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. will need to be efficient and consistent for Utah to have a chance. Mitchell will probably be guarded by George or Leonard a ton, so he’ll have to use his quickness, versatility and shot-creating to get quality looks against their length.
Conley and Kawhi have had classic matchups in past playoff meetings as star members of different teams. Conley was once the lead henchman for Memphis and Leonard struck Finals MVP gold for the first time with the Spurs.
Notice I basically mentioned what Utah needs to do to win this series and that’s because the Clippers may be the lower seed, but they have more talent; meaning they have more room for error.
This series will be played at a high level with quality shotmaking and playmaking. I like the Clippers to win it in six games.