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EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — This team was built for today

By David Locke, Utah Jazz

Summary: The Jazz win the series. 

  • I don’t even know where to start. There are so many things to write about. There is the pure admiration of this group and the coaching staff and the incredible effort under adverse circumstances the entire season and series. The constant effort throughout the season has been exceptional. The team was built for today and it answered.
  • From an X&O standpoint, the Jazz played more aggressively on the pick-and-roll with the big up. It allowed a few more Jordan dunks, but it took CP3 out of his rhythm and none of the other Clippers did enough to cause the Jazz issues.
  • The Clippers only led this game at 3-2 and 5-4. The Jazz controlled most of the first quarter and the Clippers tied the game at the end of the first, but the Jazz regained control in the second when Chris Paul took his break and Utah led by seven points at the half. The Jazz only allowed the Clippers 15 points in the second quarter. The Jazz’s offense exploded in the third with a 33-point quarter and a 15-2 run. Coming into Game 7, this was a series that was within two possessions 75% of the time. Today, the Jazz were in complete control.
  • Derrick Favors was the MVP today. With Gobert completely eliminated (read however you wish) by foul trouble and only playing 13 minutes, the Jazz needed Derrick to be terrific and he was. In some ways, as Ron pointed out, Favors was the more important big in this series. He is better at playing up on the pick-and-roll and he has a better chance to hit a midrange jump shot that DeAndre will give up every possession. In the series, Favors was 1-10 from outside 10 feet but today he nailed a few midrange shots. In addition, the amount of times on the broadcast that I said “Favors cuts off the path” was enormous.
  • This is a great day for Gordon Hayward. He and Derrick have been through the entire rebuild. It was really hard at times. It was seriously unpleasant. Today, Gordon completed an unreal series where — despite all the talk of Chris Paul — an argument can be made that he was the best player in the series. Similar to Paul, the Clippers’ defense was set to take him away and they couldn’t do it. In the six games he played, he averaged 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He shot an incredible 47% FG and 46% from 3. He hit on 43-45 free throws. It is unusual that a player gets better and more efficient in the playoffs. This is where all of his offseason conditioning really may have had a positive impact. For those fans that have been with this team each step of the process, Hayward’s growth is really a remarkable story.
  • The Clippers went 6 for 25 from 3. Rivers, Redick, Pierce, Crawford and Speights were a combined 5-18. That was huge.
  • George Hill had a really good series. Today, the Jazz were +21 when he was on the floor. He shot 48% from the field and 39% from 3. He nailed some really big shots in this game when the tide felt like it might turn.
  • The Jazz made a huge run in the third and when the Clippers tried to mount their comeback, the Jazz were in the penalty and were able to quell the rally with free throws.
  • Quin Snyder used the Jazz’s depth to their advantage. They grabbed two minutes from Neto, three from Mack, three from Withey and eight really solid minutes from Dante Exum. This was huge. The Clippers were running on fumes. The effort that Paul and Jordan had to put out without Griffin was otherworldly, and the Jazz’s use of depth became a big part of this game.
  • Joe Ingles was 2-3 from 3. Rodney Hood was 4-6 and 1-3 from 3. Both hit really big shots in rallies that pushed the Jazz to a big lead.
  • Boris Diaw had the Jazz’s best plus minus of any Jazz player in the series. He did so many good things and hit his shots. He hit 56% of his shots and was 5-10 from 3. Playoff Boris.
  • The crowd at the Staples Center was a nonfactor. It never really felt like a Game 7 environment. Now, we move to the two loudest arenas in the NBA.
  • The Clippers fell behind by enough that Rivers had to go to his offense-only lineup and the Jazz kept scoring and scoring. The lineup matchups he tried to avoid with Jamal Crawford and JJ Reddick on the floor at the same time were back and the Jazz went at all of them. Joe Johnson kept going against Jamal Crawford time and time again.
  • What happens next for the Clippers is one of the biggest offseason stories. Will Carmelo join Blake, CP3 and DeAndre? Will Blake move on? Will Melo replace Blake? Will CP3 decide that after five first round losses in nine years that he has to go play for a winner and take a pay cut? What will Ballmer do and what is the Clippers’ place in the LA sports market if it loses stars?
  • Off to the Bay Area. If you are going to beat the Warriors, you have to do four things: Slow the game way down, cut off the play at the rim, get a high offensive rebounding rate and have to have multiple pick-and-roll ball handlers. The Jazz have all four. The last thing you have to have is a lot of luck. The Warriors might be the best team ever compiled in NBA history.