Round 2 Preview
I’m hoping this is a good series! It’s hard to know what Clippers team will turn up. I’m leaning towards a Jazz victory, but let’s have a look at some keys to the series.
Kawhi Leonard vs Utah
Over the last 2 seasons, nobody has defended Kawhi Leonard as well as the Utah Jazz. Leonard has attempted 93 field goals against Utah and only connected on 33 of them (35.5%). From 3, he has made a measly 5 of his 23 attempts (21.7%). Yikes. Thanks to John Schumann over at nba.com for providing the numbers on that.
Obviously Leonard was pivotal for the Clippers taking the 7 game series against Dallas in Round 1. He shot 61% overall and 43% from long range. Those numbers will have to be pretty similar if L.A. Are to have any chance of advancing.
I’m curious to see who comes out on top, Kawhi or Utah? The numbers stand behind the Jazz, but none of those numbers were in the playoffs. As we all know, Kawhi really turns it on for the big stage.
The Effect of the Three-ball
Both of these teams have shot from downtown with incredible success. L.A. have a slight edge with percentage, but I don’t think their is a significant advantage for either team. Let’s say it balances out. Where can we look for separation next?
Obviously, inside. Kawhi is a dominant mid-range scorer, but as I mentioned just before, he seems to struggle with his shot against Utah. I wouldn’t confidently vote for anybody on this Clippers team to succeed where Kawhi Leonard can’t, so I feel this is an advantage for Utah. Why? Gobert.
Gobert is a force to be reckoned with and is definitely better known for his defense, but that doesn’t mean his presence won’t be felt on the other end of the floor. He was pretty dominant against Memphis last round. I understand that the Memphis and L.A. are significantly different teams, but if Gobert comes with a similar mindset, it might make a huge difference in this series.
In the 5 games against Memphis, Gobert only failed to grab at least 13 rebound in one game (he had 8 in game 4, interestingly enough that was also his worse shooting performance – 55%). He scored the ball incredibly well, missing only 10 shots the entire series. He had shooting percentages over 80% 3 times! If Gobert can get his shot attempts to about 15 per game and maintain a shooting percentage of 80%, L.A. just might be doomed.
What’s the status of Mike Conley Jr.?
Conley left game 5 against Memphis after complaining about tightness with his right hamstring. Conley is no stranger to hamstring problems. After the game, Conley said that it didn’t feel as bad as some previous injuries he had suffered and that he is eager to get back on the court. At the moment, he is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game. I suspect he won’t play, but how many games will he miss?
I don’t think it is unfair to say that he is a pretty important part of Utah’s success. He is usually good for 20 points and 6-7 assists per game. That is a lot of production to be without. Not only that, but he is an efficient scorer, which requires other teams to keep an eye on him. Just his presence alone can make things easier for other scorers on Utah, like Mitchell, Ingles or Clarkson.
Rest vs Rust
Utah finished up their Round 1 series against Memphis 5 days ago. Almost a week off by the time the game will jump tomorrow. On the other side, L.A. only just finished their first round series yesterday, after a gruelling 7 game series against Dallas.
Usually, I would prefer not to have that much time off, but it certainly gave Utah some much needed rest, especially considering the injury cloud hanging over Mike Conley Jr..
L.A. have stated that the intense 7 game series was the exact kind of adversity they needed to get all of them on the same page. That may be the case, but they played a pretty short rotation in Round 1 and Leonard (and George) racked up some serious minutes. As the series goes on, I think that is going to come back to bite them.
That being said, I think they will likely win tomorrow, just because of the long lay-off for Utah.
I’m not going to overthink this one. Utah have been one of the elite teams all year long. The Clippers always seem to be surrounded by controversy and drama, usually stemming from within their own locker room. I don’t buy it when they say that they are all on the same page now. I think that the Clippers will steal a game tomorrow and are probably good for 1 more victory at home, so I’ll take the Jazz in 6.