This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Set against what had become the most important game of the season Game 5 of the Jazz-Clippers playoff series there were questions to answer at Staples Center on Tuesday night. Big questions. It's easy to presume whichever team won this game, with the thing tied up at two a piece, would go on to advance, each then with a chance to close out on its home floor in the coming bracket of games.
If that's true, the Jazz and the Clips had to throw everything they had at each other.
For the Jazz, they had to achieve some of the same positive results that led to victory at home on Sunday night. That would fall on Rudy Gobert would he be sore or otherwise compromised from Game 4's 24 minutes? and Gordon Hayward had he fully recovered from food poisoning? and Derrick Favors could he replicate his shooting efficiency on a bad wheel? and Joe Johnson would he wear tights and a cape? and … and … and … well, you get the idea. There was a lot going on, a lot of, as Quin Snyder termed it, "chaos" to solve.
Turned out, the Jazz found a way to answer most of their questions in a positive, affirmative way, beating the Clippers, 96-92, allowing the Jazz to come back to Vivint Smart Home Arena with a shot to not only slam the door on the Clips, but perhaps alter that club's future, what with the Chris Paul-DeAndre Jordan-Blake Griffin-JJ Redick thing falling short in the postseason, again. What will happen to the makeup of that franchise moving forward? That's Los Angeles' problem.
In a win that could only be described as … ugly, although it was beautiful to them, the Jazz got 11 points and 11 rebounds out of Gobert, 27 points and eight rebounds out of Hayward, and 14 and eight out of Johnson, including a clutch make near the end. Favors? He had four and two. They built an eight-point lead in the fourth, lost it, and regained it, and held on barely. George Hill nailed four important free throws to seal it.
Snyder had compared the Jazz's adversity through this season, and in this series, to the weather: "If it's sunshine, you take it for granted. If it's cold, you ice fish."
The Jazz did a little of both in Game 5, although taking anything for granted these days is rare for them.
Now, that collection of players is one step from moving on to face the best team in basketball, a great team with an ailing star and a coach who had to step away on account of back pain. Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here a tad-bit.
But there's no denying that the Jazz are staring at an opportunity that beckons in a most seducing way. One game to handle before moving on with an achievement that crowns their season as a raging, undeniable success.
The responsible thing to do here is focus only on Game 6 at Vivint Arena. But, based on the Jazz's result here at Staples, the imagination stretches easily. This team that has faced down so much adversity, that has ice fished a lot in this series alone, with periodic losses of Gobert and Hayward, along with making do with Rodney Hood's and Favors' bum knees and gone on to win two games on the Clippers' home floor, placing themselves on the precipice of something that hasn't been done by a Jazz team in a long time, underscores their resolve in such a manner that it has become a major part of their identity.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Snyder said. "I'm proud of their resilience. … The chemistry of our group has been challenged. Frankly, their character. Every time that's happened, we've had players who have shown in a very positive way who they are."
They are on the brink of becoming semifinalists in the West.
Speaking of resilience, Snyder, too, has earned accolades for essentially spitting into the harsh blowing wind of difficulty and barreling ahead. On Tuesday night, his Jazz battled through a road crowd that emphatically urged the Clippers on, knowing full well what was at stake.
Paul, who had vexed the Jazz repeatedly in this series, played his usual masterful game. He had some great moments and some lesser ones. Many more better ones. Either way, Utah would take it.
With work yet to do, the Jazz are who they hoped they'd be. And that looks an awful lot like it's good enough.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.