In Game 1, Utah dictated the flow, slowing things down and forcing L.A. to play in the half court.
"Teams like them and San Antonio are very tough because you have to play defense the whole 24 seconds," point guard Raymond Felton said. "You have a lot of teams that come down and like to take quick shots. Sometimes that's easy for a defense. Where it gets tough for a defense is when you have to play the whole 24. It's tough. They're running their sets and taking the second or third or sometimes fourth option."
If L.A. is going to emerge victorious, the Clippers know what they have to do.
"You definitely have to be locked in," guard Jamal Crawford said. "Like coming into the last game, we had beaten them 18 out of 21 times. So we know how they play. It's different from most teams because most teams want to get up and down fast, get a shot early in the shot clock. But for them, they play it differently, and that's fine too."
Stockton to Malone
If the Jazz bounce the Clippers from the playoffs, there are plenty who believe it will mark the end of an era for the franchise. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick can all become free agents this summer, which could leave Rivers, the coach and general manager, starting over. His case for keeping them together has roots in Salt Lake City.
"I always use Utah as a great [example]," Rivers told USA Today. "Thank God Karl Malone and [John] Stockton didn't listen to people, you know what I mean? They fell [in the playoffs], and kept trying and kept trying. And finally, late in their careers, they finally broke through to the Finals. They didn't win it [all]. But you know, that's the pursuit. I just think it's so easy to [say], 'Hey, they should break up,' from the outside. And I think that's such an easy opinion."
Even if Joe Johnson's buzzer-beater hadn't fallen, the Clippers would have still been left wondering how to best slow down the 35-year-old veteran.
"I played with Joe for two years [in Atlanta] so knowing Joe, Joe is veteran, he's been around," Crawford said. "Obviously he's been in that position a lot of times. He's had a lot of success with seven, eight, nine game winners. So he's had success in that situation. For us, obviously he's a good player. We're going to have to have our antennas up for him."
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