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Utah Jazz: Clippers dominate the post, beat Jazz to tie playoff series at 1-1

Published April 19, 2017 4:05 pm

Griffin and Jordan prove to be too much in the paint for a Gobert-less Jazz.
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Los Angeles • He removed the chain that hung around his neck, placed it in his locker then strode out to the court about an hour before tipoff and took a seat on the bench. He dribbled a ball as he sat and watched for a few minutes then left.

That's as close as Rudy Gobert would get to the action Tuesday night.

When Gobert normally would have been warming up, he instead was munching from the taco bar inside the Staples Center media room. Later, when the Jazz's star center usually would be patrolling the paint, the Clippers were the ones feasting.

Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan punished the Jazz — and the rim — to combine for 42 points in a 99-91 victory in Game 2 to even the series with Utah at 1.

"We've just got to find other ways to protect the paint," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said afterward. "That's the challenge. It is what it is. Any time you don't have a guy that's a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, everyone else has to step up. There's no sense lamenting his absence. We've just got to figure out how to be better."

After stealing the series opener despite losing Gobert to a left knee injury 11 seconds into the contest, Jazz coach Snyder said his team was not content to return to Salt Lake City with only one victory.

Snyder, however, also knew how hard it would be to win against a Clippers team desperate to even the series.

"It's 1-1," Snyder said. "It just kind of is what it is. They raised their level tonight. I don't think we necessarily backed down … but I thought they played with an intensity and a level from the beginning of the game. It was impressive."

Gordon Hayward had 20 points, Joe Johnson and Derrick Favors both finished with 13 and point guard George Hill had 12 points and seven rebounds.

But on the whole, the Jazz lacked the urgency they had in Game 1. And after failing to take advantage of Gobert's injury Saturday night, the Clippers had promised to be aggressive with "downhill" drives to the rim.

Clippers point guard Raymond Felton had dabbled in the absurd earlier in the day as he spoke with reporters.

"It's kind of hard to play against a team when they lose one of their top guys because everybody else steps up and plays at another level," he said at the team's morning shootaround. "I almost want him to come back and play."

The Jazz want that, too, even if Felton might be rethinking his stance now. No, the Jazz are not better without the league's leading shot-blocker patrolling under the rim.

After surrendering 40 points in the paint in Game 1, the Jazz gave up 60 points there Tuesday night.

Utah hung tough for most of the night, pulling within three points on a Rodney Hood triple midway through the third quarter. From there, L.A.'s star point guard Chris Paul took over for a brief but key stretch. Paul hit a 3-pointer of his own and followed it with a block, then a steal, then a transition basket to quickly push the lead back to eight.

Paul finished with 21 points and 10 assists. Griffin had a game-high 24 points. Jordan went for 18 points and 15 rebounds, helping the Clippers win the battle of the boards.

Hayward had said Utah felt as if the game was a "must-win" for Utah, despite already having stolen home-court advantage in the series. The Jazz's hopes of advancing still are alive and well despite Tuesday's defeat, though a victory would have at least bought Gobert some more time for his hyperextended knee to heal.

Gobert walked, smiling and without a limp, as his teammates practiced without him over the last few days. That smile was gone as he watched part of Game 2 from a seat a row behind the Jazz bench.

"I think he's in a good place," Snyder said. "His focus is on trying to get back as quickly as he can. From what you kind of felt initially, you feel fortunate that there's nothing more serious. It certainly looked that way when it happened."

Gobert is listed as day to day with the injury, from which other athletes have needed roughly two weeks to return.

The Jazz, meanwhile, have only until Friday night to regroup and try to reclaim their edge.

"I think the biggest thing for our group … is just to understand that we need to be a confident team without him," Snyder said before tipoff Tuesday. "We've relied on him so much. He's been terrific. He's had a great year. But we can't be discouraged by the fact that we don't have him."


Twitter: @aaronfalk






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