The Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 112-109 in Game 1 Tuesday.
Can Kawhi Leonard and Paul George rebound from that outing, or is the team on its way to another early exit in the postseason?
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The Jazz finished the regular season with the best home record and you could see why during Game 1, as the crowd and atmosphere was absolutely electric. Utah players and Donovan Mitchell fed off of that energy in the second half when they mounted their comeback.
Mitchell finished Game 1 with 45 points, while DMVP Rudy Gobert, blocked LA's last shot attempt. It was a fitting end for Utah, who looks to keep it going tonight. The team has balance on both sides of the ball. On defense, they rank 1st in assists allowed and 3-pointers allowed, 3rd in points allowed, and 4th in defensive rating.
Offensively, Utah can score with the best of them, and rank 4th in points allowed and offensive rating. The Jazz also rank 1st in total rebounds, thanks to Gobert. Their main differentiator on O has been the 3ball. They rank 1st in 3-pointers attempted, and 3-pointers made and let it absolutely fly from deep. Their ability to shoot keeps them in pretty much every ballgame.
The Clippers also can do damage on both sides of the basketball, as they rank in the top-5 of many key metrics. PG had an off shooting night in Game 1, and Leonard was also relatively quiet compared to his series against the Mavericks. With all that being said, they had a huge lead in the first half and still had a chance to steal Game 1.
Los Angeles did hold Utah to 112 points, but they will need to score more in Game 2 to turn this series. That all starts with the Klaw, who I expect to be more aggressive tonight. Look for LA to get Leonard more involved in the mid-post game. While Utah plays great team defense and Gobert swallows up everything at the rim, Kawhi has an advantage in the post.
The team will need Round 1 Leonard plus his teammates to step up tonight, which puts the spotlight on PG. George should shoot better than 4-17 tonight, so look for some positive regression from him in Game 2.
The Jazz are susceptible to giving up big games and you saw some of that in Game 1. Utah allowed 117.2 points per 100 possessions to Los Angeles, and if it wasn't for the Clippers getting tired in the second half, we might be having a completely different discussion right now.
There's also a chance Utah is without Mike Conley, which hurts them on offense more than a lot of people think. The unit is more dynamic with Conley in the game. When he's out, they don't pass it as much and are overly reliant on Mitchell. If Spida doesn't go off in the second half of Game 1, they probably lose that game by 5+.
Overall, Game 1 was a tough situational spot for LAC. The Clippers went into that night on a short turn around after a grueling 7-game series against the Mavericks. The high altitude probably didn't help in the second half of that game either. Even after all of that, and Mitchell scoring 45, Los Angeles still had multiple chances to win that game.
Both Leonard and George should play much better tonight, and I believe the Clippers can win this game straight up.
Pick: Clippers +3