After rallying from a 2-0 deficit in round one against the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Clippers will be tasked with repeating those efforts if they hope to stay alive in the NBA playoffs. That’s because they once again find themselves in a hole, this time to the Utah Jazz.
Donovan Mitchell and company have kept their foot on the accelerator in the first two contests of this series. After a big Clippers rally in Game 2, the Jazz were still able to fight off LA and get the win.
This 2-0 series deficit poses much bigger problems for the Clippers as Utah is a much better all-around team than Dallas. Yet, LA knows they still have a shot. Here are two adjustments the Clippers must make against the Jazz to pull off a repeat of the Mavs series.
Meet and greet Donovan Mitchell well beyond the perimeter
Donovan Mitchell got what he wanted, when he wanted in Game 1 against the Clippers. Game 2 started the same way, as the Jazz’s star was moving and grooving to the hoop at will early on.
To LA’s credit, they put the clamps on watching that show on repeat and they started to press up on Mitchell, forcing his hand and gluing themselves to him well beyond the perimeter. It worked for a stretch before others chipped in for the Jazz and then Mitchell was able to wiggle loose a few more times.
One thing that has become abundantly clear in this series so far is that for the Clippers, Donovan Mitchell has become way too comfortable. He’s poured in 45 and 37 points, respectively, in the first two games against LA. That has to change for the Clippers.
They have two of the best on-ball defenders in the entire NBA in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Yet, Mitchell is hovering above everyone in this series.
Part of it is just accepting Mitchell is a monster and giving a tip of the cap. But the Clippers could be doing much better to disrupt his rhythm.
LA should take on the idea of picking up Mitchell right at half court. Sure, it will eventually wear out whoever is guarding Donovan but, the Clippers have plenty of options they can go to for this tactic including: Leonard, George, Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and more. There’s no shortage of options for Ty Lue to go to when it comes to staying attached to the hip of Mitchell.
He’s been far too comfortable the first two games of this series and part of that is because the Clippers have sagged off the pressure at times. They can’t afford to do that going forward.
Don’t shy away from taking it at Rudy Gobert
The Clippers have actually done a good job of this in the first two games. Rudy Gobert had five fouls in Game 1 and four fouls in Game 2 against LA so far.
Paul George has driven it to the rack even with the NBA Defensive Player of the Year waiting for him to arrive. Kawhi Leonard has done so as well on a few occasions.
So many teams shy away from trying to get into the paint against Utah because of Gobert and to an extent, it’s validated. But if LA wants any chance of coming back in this series, they can’t abandon that plan and become strictly a perimeter orientated team.
Make no mistake, the Clippers are a very good three-point shooting bunch. But during large segments of Game 2, they started and continued to just chuck up triples instead of working the ball off the dribble inside. If they are hitting a million three’s, so be it, let it fly. In most instances, that won’t be the case though.
Gobert is as good as it gets protecting the rim but George and Leonard know how to attack even the best of interior defenders. For as much criticism as George has gotten for his fizzled performances in the two games of this series so far, one thing he has excelled at is driving it right into Gobert’s body and drawing the fouls when the Clippers need them.
LA needs to keep finding that happy balance between being a three-point shooting team and working the half-court offense and getting to the tin.
It’s a daunting task staring the Clippers right in the eyes at the moment. Not only did they exhaust plenty of energy coming back from a 2-0 hole in round one against the Mavericks, they’ll have to do the same again in round two against the Jazz if they want to keep their title dreams alive. It won’t be easy, but these two adjustments could help out in a major way.