Donovan Mitchell played out of his mind in both, pouring in 45 points for Utah in Game 1 and 37 points in Game 2.
Game 3 is slated for Saturday. While LA trailed the Dallas Mavericks 2-0 in Round 1 before winning the series in seven games, this situation is far different. It’s a much tougher ask this time around if the Clippers are to try and make a comeback in this series. Here are two big reasons why LA won’t be able to bounce back from a 2-0 deficit this time.
Jazz won Game 1 and Game 2 at less than full strength
Utah beat the Clippers in both games so far and didn’t have its floor general active for either contests. Mike Conley, the Jazz’s starting point guard, missed Game 1 and Game 2 as he deals with a hamstring strain.
Utah’s offense sputtered out of the gates in Game 1, scoring just 18 points in the first quarter. They finished the game with 112 in the win.
In Game 2, Utah seemed much more settled into the idea that they wouldn’t have Conley after playing without him in Game 1. The Jazz had 66 points at the break in Game 2, including 30 first-quarter points and 36 second-quarter points.
The Clippers could ill-afford to not take advantage of this series with Conley out. Game 1 was fine, as the Clippers were coming off an exhausting seven-game series against the Mavericks while the Jazz had wiped clean the Grizzlies in just five games. Losing Game 2 could end up being the backbreaker for LA, especially if Conley returns anytime soon. Ty Lue’s squad had the chance, had the opportunity to even it up heading back to Staples Center with the Jazz at less than full strength, and yet they still got boat-raced in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 2.
Assuming Conley comes back at some point in this series, it only makes Utah better and will boost its chances even more against the Clippers. LA coming up short in both games so far has put them even further behind the 8-ball. The Jazz have looked like a No. 1 seed so far and the Clippers have looked like a No. 4 seed.
Utah is flat-out better than Dallas
The Mavericks are a wildly entertaining team to watch for one major reason: Luka Doncic. While Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith and a couple others had their moments in Round 1 against the Clippers, it was largely a Doncic vs. Clippers affair. He had little help through long stretches of the series. Utah is a different beast.
Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanvoic, Rudy Gobert, Royce O’Neale … the list goes on and on and on. Luka Doncic would set the league on fire with a supporting cast like that.
Donovan Mitchell is the featured piece for the Jazz against the Clippers, and then there’s everyone else. But Quin Snyder’s squad is one that plays true team basketball. Different guys seemingly step up every single night for Utah.
In Game 2, the Jazz had five different players reach double figures in points as Utah held off the Clippers with a six-point victory. When Mitchell is off the court, sure, the offense isn’t as dynamic, but they still figure it out. When Doncic was off the court for the Mavs against LA in Round 1, it was a disaster for Dallas. Utah is built different.
The Clippers were able to adjust against the Mavericks in the second half of most those games by locking in on Doncic and focusing all the attention on him. It worked. They can do the same to Mitchell in this series and they opted to go that route in Game 2, but the Jazz have so many other capable pieces it proved fatal to LA’s chances. Bogdanovic and Ingles both hit multiple shots in the fourth quarter of Game 2 as the Clippers shifted their primary focus to picking up Mitchell well outside the perimeter when he had the rock. There are just too many pieces for the Jazz. Utah is the No. 1 seed for a reason, despite being overlooked all season long.
LA won’t be mailing it in after going gone down 2-0 in this series against the Jazz. When you have Kawhi Leonard, you always have a shot. But the Clippers are facing a far better team this round with way more depth than what they saw against Dallas. This 2-0 deficit for LA is far different than the 2-0 deficit they faced last time around, and not for the better.