This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
After everything was done here Tuesday night in Game 5, the scoring, the missing, the boarding, the bumping, the bumbling, the rumbling, the dropping the anchor out, and, most significantly, the winning, Rudy Gobert uttered words that characterized the Jazz and their efforts against the Clippers as well as any words had.
"We just tried to come out with toughness and attitude," he said. "We really wanted to win this game and we did."
Toughness and attitude. The Jazz have redefined their own version of T and A.
That's what the Jazz have become about. That's what they've evolved into.
Exhibit A: Gordon Hayward tangling with Chris Paul near the end of the fifth game. You saw what happened. With the outcome on the line, the two star players were fighting for the ball and … in Hayward's words: "When there's a little scrum like that, you know, you want to make sure you get the ball and come out with the ball. He tried to take it from me, so I just didn't let him. It's just competitive adrenaline."
The "little scrum" looked like an old cartoon, where two characters get in a brawl, there's a cloud stirred up around them, and then … and then, Hayward walks the other way with the ball in his hand.
It wasn't so long ago when the Jazz were considered, as one writer infamously put it, the nicest, most likable team in the NBA. The Lakers were the most-hated team in that league ranking because they no longer were good but refused to acknowledge it. The Jazz were considered the easiest team to like, "with no rough edges to irritate." Even worse, they were said to have "no dominant style about which to turn up your nose, no offensive personalities at which to seethe."
That's the worst thing anybody can say about a team.
Everybody knows where nice guys finish, eh?
Well … that was then, this is now.
Now, the Jazz are a pain in the A.
Nobody likes playing them, not anymore, not the least of which are the Clippers.
They're difficult at the defensive end, led by Gobert blocking and altering shots, closing off the paint, always a threat to embarrass guys on the drive, guys who loathe nothing more on the floor than having their attempts blocked. The Jazz are hardly bullies. They don't shove around teams, don't cheap shot opponents, don't talk a lot of trash. They just wear them down to the nub. They set pick after pick after pick, always moving the ball and setting more picks. And they frustrate teams with their deliberate style of play, grabbing the speed of the game by the throat and strangling it until the oxygen is choked off. They whittle down the entire thing to an obnoxious grind.
"We want to try to control the game and play at our pace, make the other team have to guard the whole possession, make them try to scramble," Hayward said. "It's tiring when you're guarding for 20 seconds and somebody gets a wide-open shot. It's a draining effect, and so I think at the end of the game, something that we're definitely used to is playing slow."
Paul was furious at the conclusion of Game 5, when the Clippers had been unable to win an important game on their home floor in front of their home fans. He clenched his fist and slapped his hands. Seething is what he was doing, although it's hard to tell exactly who he was mad at. It might be his own guys. It might be the Jazz. It might be the world as we know it.
In Tuesday night's postgame, Paul got angry at a reporter's question in an exchange that went like this:
Reporter: "Will the Clippers be back here Sunday, playing a Game 7?"
Reporter: "Your feeling about your level of confidence that you'll be back here again."
Paul: "What you think? I'm on the team. What you want me to say, 'No, it's over?' That's what you want to hear? Yes. Come on, man. You've been doing this long enough. Seriously, right?"
Reporter: "If you could expand upon that."
Paul: "No. I don't know. Everybody in here laughing for a reason. Come on, man."
Paul was the only one not laughing. He and his Clippers suddenly are staring down the barrel of elimination, facing the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Friday night, all the way back in Utah, in front of all those "homers."
And the Jazz have no intention of returning to Staples Center on Sunday. Only of taking care of their business in Game 6 with their new embrace of T and A. On top of that, they expect their fans to be lathered into a frenzy of similar toughness and attitude.
"Our fans are tremendous," Hayward said, "and playing in front of them, I know they're going to be loud. They're going to bring us a lot of energy. I think we want to try to carry some of the momentum we have right now, and that we can do from watching film, from just remembering how we got to where we are right now."
Everybody now knows: T and A.
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.