The Utah Jazz missed a massive opportunity to advance to the Western Conference Finals after Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard went down with a knee injury after Game 4. Even without their franchise superstar, the Clippers managed to take down the no. 1 team in the NBA and made history by going to their first conference finals in franchise history. Who would have thought that it would take the greatest game of an unsung hero in Terance Mann for the Clippers to finally breakthrough?

As for the Jazz, it blew arguably its biggest chance to win its first NBA championship in franchise history. After one of their best seasons ever, Utah goes back to the drawing board this off-season as it looks to build on this strong 2020-21 campaign onto the next. They will certainly also take a look back to what they could have done differently in this second-round series against the Clippers, especially in the last two games, where they could have taken advantage of a short-handed L.A. squad. By doing so, they will note these two huge mistakes that cost them this series against the Clippers.

The Jazz died by the 3

The 3-pointer has been Utah’s main weapon of choice this season. The Jazz made and shot the most threes among all NBA teams in the regular season and it was a large reason why they finished their campaign with the best record in the league. Unfortunately, what made them live in success for the majority of the season also became the reason they perished in these playoffs.

Utah came out blistering from beyond the arc in the first half of both Games 5 and 6. However, the law of averages eventually bit them in extremes in the second half and it certainly cost them in a huge way in this series versus the Clippers.

They went 17-of-30 from downtown through the first 24 minutes of Game 5, but went below-zero cold in the second half, going just 3 of 24 from deep. This included a stretch where they missed 16 straight 3s, including clanking all of their 11 triple tries in the third quarter.

The same story happened in Game 6, where they drained 12-of-19 from three before the intermission. This propelled the Jazz to a 72-50 count at the half and helped them build a lead as large as 25 in the third quarter. Utah went 9-of-25 in the second half of Game 6, which is just slightly below the team’s regular-season mark of 38.9 percent. Nonetheless, it just wasn’t enough considering the Clippers shot a blistering 30-of-42 from the field, including 14-of-19 from three.

Overall, they went a combined 12-of-49 in the second half of their final two losses of the series. The Jazz could have tried to diversify their offense more. However, there was really not much they could do with Donovan Mitchell clearly hobbled and lacking explosion, preventing the dynamic All-Star from attacking the rim relentlessly. In addition, veteran guard Mike Conley was out for all but the final game of the series. Conley, who nursed a strained hamstring, was clearly not himself just yet when he returned and struggled mightily in Game 6.

Nevertheless, this is still a case of Utah sticking to what got them this far in the first place. Unfortunately, doing so spelled their doom when their threes weren’t falling.

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Sticking with Rudy Gobert

ESPN analyst Tim Legler put it best that the Jazz should have at least attempted to counter the Clippers scheme of going small and attacking Rudy Gobert at will to open up wide open threes on the perimeter by taking out the Frenchman from the game as L.A. made their massive run in Game 6.

As Legler put it, the Clippers’ plan of attack was clear and they exploited the 7-foot-1 big man’s instincts as a rim protector to generate super clean looks for them from the perimeter. L.A. shot 71.4 percent from the field overall and went a torrid 14-of-19 from three in the second half of Game 6 as they stormed back from a 25-point deficit.

It would have definitely been a bold move for Quin Snyder to take out no less than the 2021 NBA Defensive Player of the Year with the Clippers going small and spraying home wide-open 3-pointers left and right. The idea probably crossed Snyder’s mind, but he probably just stuck with his big guns until the end. Unfortunately, not trying it at all wound up costing them the series.

In addition, this also would not have been the most image-friendly move for both the Jazz and Gobert himself. Utah just inked the 28-year old to a massive five-year, $205 million contract last December, and taking him out of a high-stakes playoff game would not be a good look for the organization. Likewise, Gobert winning DPOY for the third time would be tainted if he’s not on the floor due to his shortcomings of defending the three.

It’s easy to see why Snyder did not make that kind of adjustment. Aside from the reasons laid out, he definitely trusts Gobert out there to make the right reads on defense, considering the 28-year old has won Defensive Player of the Year thrice. However, 2-time All-Star just doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the Clippers zipping the ball all over the perimeter.

With that said, at least trying to match up the Clippers’ small line-up would have been worth considering with the Jazz already facing elimination.