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EMPTYING THE NOGGIN - Joe Johnson save again

By David Locke, Utah Jazz

Summary:  After a disheartening injury to Rudy Gobert on the first play of the game, the Jazz showed remarkable heart and resiliency capping it off with Joe Johnson game winner to take Game 1 of the first round playoff series with the Clippers.

  • Let’s start at the end. Chris Paul tied the game with 13 seconds left. The Jazz inbounded to Joe Johnson and he calmly went to the front court. In the back court, Gordon came toward him for the ball and Joe kept the possession. He has played 101 playoff games coming in, he had seven game winners in the last 10 years and he had played in seven different Game 7s. He was okay with the moment. Then, he came to the left side of the floor where he interchanged with Joe Ingles, forcing the switch from Blake Griffin defending to Jamal Crawford. The Jazz had been forcing Jamal Crawford to play defense all night. Joe Johnson worked Crawford into the paint and finished it with the game winner.
  • This is so good on so many levels. First, Quin Snyder didn’t call a timeout. He communicated to his players throughout the year how he wants them to play, what the goals are and why and how they should deal with things. The Jazz wanted the ball in either Joe Johnson or Gordon Hayward’s hands and they wanted to make Jamal Crawford switch onto the ball and play defense. Joe Ingles executed by bringing himself to the ball and forcing the Clippers into a switch.
  • Today at shootaround, the Jazz literally ran a play where Quin said, “Here is what we are going to do if we have no timeouts and they just went to the free throw line.” It wasn’t the same play they ran here, but it exemplifies the level of detail Quin goes to and the players knew what they wanted and how to react.
  • The story of the night was the Jazz’s fight after the first play of the game when Rudy Gobert went down with what has been diagnosed as a hyperextension and a bone bruise on his knee. It was enough to make you puke. How could this be happening to our team? The season is over without ever getting a chance to find out if the Jazz are any good. Is the thought every Jazz fan had when Gobert was crawling on the ground, unable to get to his feet.
  • Instead, the Jazz played inspired basketball. The bench was as engaged as I have seen it all year. Quite honestly, our bench has not been that happy-go-lucky group getting all fired up about the team most of this year. Tonight, they were up on every play. Let me clarify that in most arenas, I am not looking at the bench the way I was tonight, but I think this is a fair observation.
  • Joe Johnson was magnificent all game. He battled Blake Griffin, made Blake Griffin defend running around picks and did a good enough job defensively to allow the help defense come to Blake. Blake dominated the first half with 22 points. In the second half, the Jazz’s double teams had a big impact.
  • The Jazz were terrifically prepared before the game and adjusted in the game even better. Blake Griffin was getting early possessions in transition and on rim runs. In the second half, the Jazz took that away and double-teamed him in the post, ruining his rhythm.
  • Gordon Hayward is going to have a hard time in this series. Luc Mbah a Moute is a force defensively and Gordon is not able to shake him. The Jazz did a better job getting Gordon looks in the second half. He also had 10 rebounds.
  • Ron Boone mentioned on the broadcast that with Rudy Gobert out, the Jazz were going to have to make up for his rebounds and Hayward got 10. The Jazz were not crushed on the glass without Rudy.
  • I’m so happy for Derrick Favors. He has been the forgotten man for this season, and tonight he kept the Jazz in the game and made numerous big plays.
  • Jamal Crawford and Mo Speights went a combined 6 of 17. It is really hard for the Clippers to win if they are getting nothing out of these two. Crawford has been a poor shooter in the playoffs for four straight years.
  • This loss would bother me if I am the Clippers, not just because it was without Rudy Gobert, but because everything the Clippers did in the regular season to cause the Jazz problems, the Clippers did again and they lost. The Jazz only took 19 3-pointers, which is a season low in addition to only shooting 19 free throws. Plus, Hayward didn’t get rolling. This is the script the Clippers should use to win games. The only other way to look at it is the Jazz still can’t get these things done against the Clippers, and the Jazz are unlikely to win series taking 19 3-point shots.
  • The Jazz maintained a slow pace of 92.5 possessions.
  • The Jazz’s defense held the Clippers to 102.8 pts per 100 possessions. For all the talk of the Jazz not being able to score on the Clippers, the Clippers haven’t done much against the Jazz this season.
  • JJ Redick was a non-factor. Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood did a great job on him. Ingles literally stripped two defenders from the ball tonight.
  • The Clippers got a good night from CP3, Blake and DeAndre. No Austin Rivers hurts them.
  • I find the Clippers to be the most fascinating team in the playoffs. Can they get over their past bad experiences? Do they want to play together anymore? Is this the end of the road and do they care? What causes the old issues to fester again? Well, things just got more interesting.
  • This is only the eight time this year Favors has played 30 minutes.
  • Gobert went out, Favors got two fouls and Jeff Withey got two fouls in the first quarter before Boris Diaw was asked to play center. The Jazz linked four minutes together with Diaw at center and they stayed even. This was huge.
  • The game stayed within six points until Jazz took an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, and that was the only time all night the game was outside of two possessions.
  • Joe Ingles set the tone all night.
  • Chris Paul is awesome. The Jazz have a very specific plan on how to play him and he was able to avoid it most of the night, even with best of efforts from the Jazz defenders.
  • Gordon Hayward played 40 minutes and I thought he looked gassed late in the game. He couldn’t get his shoulders square on his shot like he usually does.
  • The playoff experience of Hill, Johnson and Diaw was huge.
  • This was a win that is somewhat representative of the entire season. One more injury punch in the gut and yet the team comes together to put out a remarkable effort with great coaching leading the way.