And we’re back! One of the most intriguing first round match-ups from both conferences is between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Clippers dominated the regular season series winning three out of four match-ups. Besides that little nugget, you’re looking at two teams fairly similar. Both finished (51-31), both share a home record of (29-12) and a road record of (22-19). In overall net rating the Jazz finished top five, while the Clippers finished sixth. We’re talking a net rating difference of 4.7 compared to 4.5. Along with this both teams shared a common issue involving injuries. The Clippers stars of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both missed 21 games. While as from the Jazz; Rodney Hood missed 23 games, Derrick Favors missed 32 games and George Hill missed 33 games. This is the Utah Jazz’s first playoff appearance in four years, as they hold the fifth seed. While on the other side, this seems like a career defining playoff run for Chris Paul and company who are returning for their fifth straight season. Through five straight playoff appearances the Clippers have failed to make it out of the second round. Fun fact, last year the fifth seeded Portland Trail Blazers pulled off the first round upset on the Los Angeles Clippers, could this be added pressure?
Doc Rivers vs Quinn Snyder:
Normally you may not see coaches under key match-ups, however, with both teams finishing with identical records, facing similar circumstances. This will be one to watch, Quinn Snyder is my pick for coach of the year after having another season of improvement and finally making the playoffs with Utah. While on the other side, Doc Rivers is back in the familiar stage, yet this year feels slightly different from years past. Since his time in Boston, Rivers and the Clippers in general have made very little playoff noise, failing to meet expectations seemingly yearly. This series could put Rivers on the hot seat, or engulf the chair he’s sitting on into flames.
DeAndre Jordan vs Rudy Gobert:
Two of the best big men in the league, both are in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Jordan is farther away in the voting in my eyes, but nonetheless an elite rim protector and big time rebounder. We can expect several lobs from CP3 to Jordan throughout the series for some big time dunks. However, the opposing center he faces is in fact my choice and the very least a top three finisher in the discussion. What needs to be said about this guy? His fourth year in the league has been his best, he leads the league in DRPM, BLK %, DRtg and leads in defensive win shares, while being second in overall win shares. The battle in the paint between these two will be huge factors on who moves on.
Chris Paul vs Gordon Hayward:
Now these two won’t be matched up often, other than on switches most likely. The outcome of this series ways heavily upon the performances of each teams star. Chris Paul is in a race against father time to win a championship, as his window is closing faster and faster. Paul will need to be at a career best or at the very least close to it, his legacy is on the line. Hayward, is the new kid on the block. First playoff appearance, after having his best year to date. Hayward has a chance to put the league on notice with a strong series. Expect both to put out huge performances.
The Jazz defense is elite without question, and two key stats for the Jazz is their ability to limit fast break points(10.7) and second chance points(10.5). These aren’t two things the Clippers thrive in, but they are two key components to their success.
For the Clippers a key stat of them is their ability to limit the damage of other teams from behind the arc. Teams average 35 percent from three against the Clippers, which put them at eighth during the regular season. The Jazz shoot on average around 37 percent from deep, it’s only two percent. However, if the Clippers can run the Jazz off the three point line it can only help their chances.
Who Will Win and Why
This series will go a full seven games, in the end, the Jazz are too much for the Clippers. I’ve always leaned towards the side of defense wins championships mantra, and the Jazz have that killer defense. Hayward and Gobert will put the doubters on notice, while we’ll be left wondering what’s next for LA.