Ivica Zubac replaced Nicolas Batum in the Clippers’ major five, but the Jazz didn’t care. Donovan Mitchell in particular. The young Utah superstar starts off with a bang, with a first half-distance shot, then a 3-point, and another 3-point from the same spot. It’s 10-2 from the start. The Clippers round back but in turn strike with a huge Zubac dunk over Gobert and Bogdanovic.
Each in their own style: Nicolas Batum in the cushy corner, and Jordan Clarkson under high pressure at the head of the racket, scored at 3 points. Jazz is in the lead but does not create a gap either, while Los Angeles brings out DeMarcus Cousins who cleans up the paint.
The two teams stand, like Joe Ingles and Luke Kennard who exchange courtesies behind the arc at the very end of the period, and Utah leads by a small point at the end of the first quarter (30-29 ).
Donovan Mitchell ultra concentré
Clarkson plays his role of wisp perfectly. He lights the first wicks in the second quarter, well followed by Mitchell who seems always so focused on his shots.
But the Clippers are not moving an iota, with Leonard and Jackson balancing the boat in Los Angeles. In fact, it was in the last two minutes that the game finally got carried away, with Gobert covering Cousins and Ingles entering a 3-point stepback, and letting “his friend” Paul George know it!
At 9 points, 4 assists, George still hasn’t set sights on the break, at 3/9. At his side, Kawhi Leonard is faithful to his position with 14 points, 3 assists. But it is indeed Donovan Mitchell who reigns over this first half, with 27 points, 11/16 on shots including 5/8 3-point. It allows Utah to take a break, and take its biggest gap at halftime (66-53). For Jazz, Jordan Clarkson is at the cleat at 15 points in 13 minutes, when Rudy Gobert is also doing his job with 5 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Reggie Jackson sounds the revolt
The return of the locker room is not more lenient for the Clippers who see not only Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac get their third foul, but also Donovan Mitchell send a new 3-point for a 10-2 entry. Jazz is at +21! Reggie Jackson connects 7 quick points to cushion the fall and the Clippers especially released a zone defense which breaks the rhythm of Jazz.
A 12-0 Clippers ensues with Jackson and Leonard at the helm. Bogdanovic and Clarkson respond well at 3-pointers, Clarkson just ahead of the Californian bench itself, but the Los Angeles fury continues with Zubac crushing a big dunk and this 12-0 becomes 23-6. The Jazz only leads by 4 lengths. In fact, against George who won for the basket plus Gobert’s fault, Utah only survived by 3 points, with Ingles and then Clarkson necessarily. The latter returns a lucky shot at the end of possession, then puts another on the next, and it allows the Jazz to stay ahead before the last quarter (93-86).
Jazz has strong backs
But the Clippers are well on their way back. Nicolas Batum enters his second 3-point of the game in the corner, and even if he cannot do anything against a difficult layup from Donovan Mitchell, Los Angeles forces another time-out from Quin Snyder after a layup from George which gives his team back to -2. The Clippers even regain the advantage after a huge dunk from Kawhi Leonard who crosses the field full ball after an interception. Jackson keeps his hand warm with two 3-pointers that make the switch.
Utah is rushed but Utah is not left out. Not the fastest, Joe Ingles still managed to squeeze the layup, and the veteran Australian completed a 14-2 for his team at 3-point after another long shot from O’Neale and another from Bogdanovic. The defense of the latter against Kawhi Leonard is also to be noted, more often than not transforming the star of the Clippers into a passer.
We are in the “money time” and Los Angeles cracks, with eight failed shots in a row. Jackson and George try a final comeback but that will not be enough with Mitchell and Gobert who finish the work on the throws (117-111).