SALT LAKE CITY – Rudy Gobert believes any extra days off the Utah Jazz have had – they’ve only played five games since the season ended on May 16 – will pay off on the road.
âWe think at the end of the day, when it’s the conference finals or the NBA Finals, those times when we got to rest is going to be a benefit to us,â said Gobert.
Sunday, after waiting and watching, the Jazz finally know who they are going to play for a shot at the Western Conference final. The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 in Game 7 Sunday to earn the chance to play against the Jazz in the second round. The series will begin Tuesday at 8 p.m. MT in Utah.
The Jazz will now face the best two-way wing tandem in the NBA with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the best 3-point shooting team by percentage, and a team that found their marks late in the first round. The Clippers came back from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Mavericks behind Leonard’s superstar performances.
The Clippers can defend, they can shoot and they have one of the best players in the game at Leonard, who has shown time and time again how good he is after the playoffs. Leonard had 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Game 7 victory. He had 45 points on 18 of 25 shots in Game 6.
“I mean, he destroyed us,” Dallas star Luka Doncic said. “That’s what it is. He had one hell of a game. That’s what he does.”
Now that’s the Jazz problem. Leonard has played two games against the Jazz this season. In the first, a 106-100 victory for the Jazz on Jan. 1, he had 20 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. In the second, a 116-112 victory for the Clippers in February, he scored 29 points.
The Jazz played an upstart Memphis team to start things off; now they are going to play a championship spirit team.
The Grizzlies were a warm-up; the Clippers are when the playoffs really start.
Here’s a look at how the Jazz have fared against the Clippers this season.
January 1: Jazz 106, Clippers 100
Led by Mike Conley’s 33 points, including a late 3, the Jazz dominated the Clippers at home to start the new year. The Jazz survived a fourth quarter rally fueled by George to claim the victory. George scored 13 of his 25 points in the last quarter against LA on a 27-9 run in the fourth to narrow the Jazz lead to one with 3:15 remaining. Conely, however, led a 7-0 run to seal the victory.
Donovan Mitchell had 15 points, five assists and four rebounds and Gobert had 12 points and 9 rebounds in just 24 minutes to fight fouls.
Leonard had 20 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists.
February 17: Jazz 114, Clippers 96
With both Leonard and George absent, the Jazz had no trouble dealing with the Clippers. Gobert had 23 points and 20 rebounds as the Jazz edged LA by 23 points in the second half to walk away with the easy win.
When Gobert was on the pitch, the Jazz kept the Clippers at an offensive rating of 79. They would have a little more success a few days later.
February 19: Clippers 116, Jazz 112
This loss to LA ended a nine-game winning streak in Utah and was only the team’s second loss since Jan.8. How did the Clippers interrupt a historic Jazz race? A stifling defense. The Clippers came out of the perimeter with a playoff-like intensity and that blocked the offense for Jazz, happy to pass.
The Jazz, who came back from a drop of 15 in the first half to take a temporary lead in the third quarter of the game, called it a good test for what the playoffs could bring.
It turned out to be prophetic.
Utah vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Game 1: Tuesday at Utah, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 2: Thursday at Utah, 8 p.m., ESPN
Game 3: Saturday in Los Angeles, 6:30 p.m., ABC
Game 4: Monday June 14 in Los Angeles, TBD, TNT
* Game 5: Wednesday June 16 in Utah, TBD, TNT
* Thu 6: Friday June 18 in Los Angeles, TBD, ESPN
* Thu 7: Sunday June 20 in Utah, TBD