Well, suffice it to say, not much went the way the Utah Jazz planned on Saturday night in Game 3 in Los Angeles.
The much-heralded defense, praised for largely shutting down stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the first two games, got abused to the tune of a combined 65 points by those two and 56/53/82 shooting splits by the Clippers as a whole.
Utah’s offense figured out the vaunted zone this time (hitting 19 3-pointers at 43% efficiency), but the improved ball movement that coach Quin Snyder was seeking was nowhere to be found, as evidenced by Utah committing more turnovers (16) than assists (15).
Oh, and Donovan Mitchell re-injured his balky ankle midway through the fourth quarter.
All of which added up to an ugly 132-106 loss at Staples Center, as well as Utah’s advantage in the Western Conference semifinal series being cut down to 2-1.
“Tonight, we didn’t really make shots and make them pay for doubling me. … We didn’t get stops either, which kind of compounds that,” said Mitchell.
Speaking of which …
After Mitchell went up for a layup attempt with 7:04 remaining, he appeared to aggravate his sprained ankle. At the next stoppage in play, he limped back into the team’s tunnel. He returned a short time later, got some treatment on the bench, and appeared as though he was set to check back in, but a prolonged conversation with Snyder concluded with Mitchell sitting for the game’s final out-of-hand minutes.
Both coach and player were quick to initially dismiss the idea of any injury problem.
“He’s in good shape,” Snyder said. “He could have gone back in the game, but at the point, during that stretch, while we were talking … the game had gotten away from us. But he’s fine.”
“I’m good. That’s all I got for you — I’m good,” added Mitchell, who totaled 30 points after a scoreless opening quarter. “… I feel like I was able to go back, but no need to risk it, down 18 at that point.”
However, when pressed about how the injury occurred, as it wasn’t readily apparent on replay, the guard conceded that it wasn’t so much a re-injury as perhaps a chronic, constant problem at this point.
“It’s when I land. It’s been just trying to manage it,” he said. “I don’t really know what else to tell you — I don’t want to say too much. It was just a landing. But I’m good, I’ll be ready for Game 4.”
Game 4, by the way, takes place Monday at 8 p.m. MT.
As for the much-maligned Game 3, well, the Jazz trailed for most of it — their fool’s gold 8-0 run to start things off notwithstanding.
Several times within the third quarter, they rallied to within eight points — but on each occasion, their impediment to continuing the comeback proved the same: No capacity for generating stops on any consistent basis.
“I felt like they made a lot more shots tonight in general, whether that be on the rim or 3s,” said Joe Ingles, noting that the Clippers did indeed bury 19 triples. “Reggie Jackson started the game 4 for 4. Obviously, PG and Kawhi got theirs. … We weren’t aggressive, we didn’t dictate what we anted them to do. … It starts with them making shots, but we can do better too with our closeouts.”
With the game on the line, Los Angeles poured in 38 points in the fourth quarter to pull away.
To Ingles’ point, Los Angeles did seem to bury an inordinate number of tough shots. But to his other point, there were plenty of missed rotations, late closeouts, and other factors that yielded plenty of too-good looks.
Utah’s turnovers committed and offensive rebounds allowed were issues that stuck out to Snyder.
“There’s going to be times when it’s tough to stop them from making shots, [but on Saturday] it’s some of the breakdowns and cleaner looks that they get,” he said. “And particularly, tonight, in transition. When we attack the basket, there’s got to be urgency to recognize that situation and really get back, to show a crowd where they don’t have clear lanes to the basket.”
Rudy Gobert, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, was largely taken out of the defensive action by virtue of the Clippers going predominantly with a five-out lineup and utilizing small-small pick-and-rolls.
He also gave the Clippers credit for a lights-out shooting performance, but said there are plenty of areas where the Jazz can gain some ground back Monday.
“They shot the ball really well from 3. It really felt like they were hitting some contested ones, too. [But] we’ve got to make sure we we don’t give them the open ones,” he said. “And we’ve got to make sure that we don’t allow them to play in transition or to get offensive rebounds, because we know that usually they’re going to score off those opportunities.”