The Clippers are not the Warriors, Staples Center is not Oracle Arena in playoff mode and the heat of the Western Conference semifinals is not the first round. But these are the same Jazz of a couple days ago, and so anything is possible in their world of being able to control a Game 7 on the road as the latest example of turning adversity into accomplishment.
Those critical words, though: a couple days ago. The Jazz finished off the Clippers in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon, had minutes to celebrate before packing for the hour flight to the Bay Area, went into full prep mode for the Golden State on Monday and open the best-of-seven second round Tuesday night in Oakland. It’s a great problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
Unless it’s not. There is the other perspective, of course, that the calendar has broken right for Utah and that riding the momentum of beating a 51-win team three times in the last four games is better than the chance to catch its breath. And, besides, the Warriors are the complete opposite, having not played since last Monday, raising the possibility Golden State, though favored in the series, could be rusty and vulnerable in the opener.
“I think it’s a little bit of both,” forward Gordon Hayward said. “Obviously they’ve been resting, have had a lot of time. But like you said, we come off a Game 7 win, you feel good, you have some momentum. You can kind of keep it rolling a little bit. For me, I think it’s a little bit of both.”
“Like he said,” guard George Hill added after the win in Los Angeles, “yeah, it’s a plus and a minus. They’ve been resting. We’ve been going through it, and I think with our win tonight, all 15 guys making an effort to pull out this win just shows that we’re a deep team. The way the ball was moving on the offensive end and the way we’re defending I think we can take that and try to carry it on to the next series. It’s a plus-minus. Hopefully we can keep things rolling and move on to the next series and have the same outcome that we did this one.”
The Jazz are in the conference semifinals for the first time since 2010 after rallying from a 2-1 deficit and playing three times in the opening round without injured Rudy Gobert, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and once while getting just nine minutes from All-Star Gordon Hayward as he dealt with food poisoning. Utah can handle adversity. The quick turnaround is more, only at a different level because it’s the Warriors staring back, problem enough under ordinary circumstances.
The hope for the Jazz is that they have a second consecutive impressive game on offense, after the Sunday of 50.6 percent from the field and 12 turnovers, while playing at the usual high level on defense, and as the Warriors spend about 48 minutes trying to re-locate their rhythm after a long layoff. At that point, anything is possible for the team that is underdogs, on the road and potentially tired. Anything is possible for Utah, again.
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