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Utah Jazz: Hacking the Clippers' big men a viable option to slow down Los Angeles' points in the paint

Published April 20, 2017 4:51 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin seemingly staged their own personal dunk contest in Tuesday's Game 2, and the lane was wide open for the Los Angeles Clippers, who finished with 60 points in the paint.

So should the Jazz, who will be without Rudy Gobert in Friday's Game 3, employ the Hack-A-Clippers strategy?

"I think we have to consider every situation," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "There are a lot of factors that go into it, from whether we are in the bonus to time and score. It's certainly something that we're well aware of."

The Hack-A strategy originally started with Shaquille O'Neal. Teams intentionally would foul Shaq to make him head to the free-throw line and knock down shots. Since O'Neal was one of the most dominant players of his era but a miserable free-throw shooter, teams opted to send him to the line over allowing him to score easily down low. The strategy has become a lightening rod for criticism and controversy in the years following O'Neal's retirement. It can help against poor-shooting big men. But it's considered gimmicky by many and a strategy that isn't visually pleasing for fans.

For the Jazz, Jordan is hard enough to keep away from the basket. Without Gobert, it's been almost impossible for them. That's why it's a fair question as the Western Conference first-round series heads to Vivint Smart Home Arena.

The Clippers did whatever they pleased in the paint to even the series at 1-1. And without Gobert, who hyperextended his knee in Saturday's Game 1, there's only so much Utah can do against Griffin and Jordan, two of the most athletic big men in the NBA.

"Whatever coach wants to do, I'm definitely on board with," Jazz center Derrick Favors said. "We trust coach. Honestly, I want to win and do whatever it takes."

Going to the Hack-A strategy is a double-edged sword. There are are positives against the Clippers. Jordan is one of the worst free-throw shooters in the NBA, hitting 48 percent of his attempts this season. He's been even worse in the first two games of the series, making only 40 percent.

So fouling Jordan and potentially surrendering a point per possession is appealing. Also, the Clippers found an offensive groove in Tuesday's Game 2, and the Jazz couldn't find a way to disrupt it. Implementing the Hack-A strategy is a good way to frustrate and find virtual defensive stops via missed free-throws when all else fails.

But there are negatives as well, beginning with who would the Jazz use to foul? Snyder could throw Joel Bolomboy or Trey Lyles into the game to use fouls, but yanking in and out rotation players can have an adverse effect on their play.

And employing that strategy quickly puts a team in the bonus. That means common fouls would result in free throws for the Clippers and potentially put good shooters at the line, which would cost the Jazz easy points.

"You have to worry about time and score and lot of different factors," Snyder said.

Snyder said he'd consider all adjustments heading into Friday night. If the Jazz do go with the Hack-A strategy, they likely would do so in short spurts.

At the very least, Utah will consider it.


Twitter: @tribjazz






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