All year, the Jazz’s bench unit was one of their reliable strengths.
Featuring both Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson and Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Joe Ingles (could you call him the Seventh Man of the Year, then?), the Jazz were well-poised to beat teams with their depth coming into the playoffs.
It hasn’t worked out that way. With Mike Conley’s hamstring injury preventing him from playing in the first four games of this series, and Ingles moving into the starting lineup, the Jazz’s bench has proved dire.
There are two ways to look at the problem. The first is just to examine how the Jazz are faring with their starters in and out of the game. In particular, with Rudy Gobert in the game, the Jazz have been outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions. But with Derrick Favors in the lineup, the Jazz have been outscored by 20.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s because they’re allowing the Clippers to walk all over them offensively — the Jazz have a 146 defensive rating with Favors in the game in this series.
“We have how we want to attack this team, with Gobert and Favors, the difference between the two, and just go out and play,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said.
Or you can examine the individual contributions of the bench players. Clarkson played a very useful Game 2, playing a major role in the Jazz pulling out with a victory in their final game in Salt Lake City. But in the other games, he’s been inefficient — overall, he’s averaging 16 points per game in the series, but shooting just 37% from the floor in doing so. (That includes just 5-21, or 23%, on 2-point shots.)
JAZZ-CLIPPERS SERIES SCHEDULE
Series tied, 2-2
Game 1 • Jazz 112, Clippers 109
Game 2 • Jazz 117, Clippers 111
Game 3 • Clippers 132, Jazz 106
Game 4 • Clippers 118, Jazz 104
Game 5 • Wednesday, 8 p.m., at Utah, TNT
Game 6 • Friday, 8 p.m., at Los Angeles, ESPN
Game 7* • Sunday, 1:30 p.m., at Utah, ABC
* — if necessary
Meanwhile, Favors has struggled to contribute after a solid Round 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies — he’s scored just six points combined in the four games, along with only 3.5 rebounds per contest after averaging 5.5 per game in the regular season. The defensive issues have shown themselves by the eye-test as well: Favors looks likely to be beaten most times he’s protecting the rim.
Georges Niang has drawn perhaps the most ire from Jazz fans, as the Jazz’s regular season solid contributor has shot a blank in this series. He’s scored just three points all series long, 0.75 points per game after scoring seven per game in the regular season. He’s made only one of his 11 shots, and the defense has been simply insufficient — the Clippers are regularly attacking him when he enters the game.
Meanwhile, Miye Oni has seen his minutes steadily decline in this series, from eight in Game 1 to barely playing one first-half minute in Game 4. The second-year player is still seeking ways to consistently influence proceedings while he’s on the floor, that is, if he gets the chance to do it again.
The whole picture is pretty clear: the Jazz’s starting lineup is outscoring the Clippers by 6.5 points per game when they’re on the floor. As you’d expect, that’s the Jazz’s most frequently used lineup. But lineup No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, No. 6, and No. 7 in terms of minutes per game all are beaten by Los Angeles.
There’s some hope that things will turn around as the series comes back to Salt Lake City for two of the final three games. Role players, the saying goes, typically perform better at home. But to have a chance to win, the Jazz can’t just rely on the explosive scoring output of Donovan Mitchell, they need someone down the line to step up.