April 30, 2017
Gordon Hayward scored 26 points , and the Jazz eliminated the Clippers at Staples Center on Sunday afternoon with a 104-91 victory.
The Clippers were eliminated from the 1st round of the playoffs for the 2nd straight season. They’ve also blown a series lead in the last 5 postseasons. Last season LA was eliminated by Portland when both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were injured. This year, the Clippers were without Griffin, after losing him to a toe injury in game 3.
George Hill and Derek Favors each scored 17 points for Utah, which won its first playoff series since 2010.
“We’ve been through some pretty hard downs,” said Hayward. “It definitely feels really good to go from 25 wins to where we were this year making the playoffs, winning a series.”
DeAndre Jordan led the way for the Clippers with 24 points and 17 rebounds, and Jamal Crawford scored the majority of his 20 points late in the game, but it wasn’t enough to rally the Clips.
The Clippers’ starting backcourt struggled. Chris Paul, who was double teamed for much of the afternoon, scored 13 points and had 9 assists, but was just 6-19 from the field. He also tweaked an ankle in the 3rd quarter, which slowed him down. JJ Redick, who struggled for most of the series, had 3 points on 1-5 shooting.
Paul was disappointed, but attributed part of the problem to defense. “It came down to today to keep us afloat, keep us alive,” he said. “We’re done. Late when we did start scoring, we couldn’t get stops.”
After an even 1st quarter, the Jazz opened up a lead as large as 11 points in the 2nd quarter, and took a 46-39 lead into halftime.
The 3rd quarter saw the Jazz open up with a 23-9 run, which blew the game open, and extended the lead to 69-48. With Rudy Gobert in foul trouble, Boris Diaw contributed 8 points in that stretch, and the Jazz complete 3 different 3-point plays.
Utah was in command for most of the 4th quarter, ahead by as many as 17 points, despite the fact that Favors and Gobert were plagued with foul trouble, as both big men fouled out.
Redick’s only basket of the game, a 3-pointer with 3:28 to play, cut the Jazz lead to 98-90, but the Clips could not get any closer. A 13-foot jumper by George Hill, a Redick missed layup, followed by two made free throws by Joe Johnson pushed the lead back to 12 with two minutes left.
The only lead of the game for LA was by a single point just minutes into the game. They shot 44% from the field and were outscored 56-46 in the paint.
The Clippers now head into the offseason with a multitude of questions hanging over them. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have the ability to opt out of their contracts’ and become free agents. JJ Redick will also become an unrestricted free agent. Re-signing any 2 of them would require incurring luxury tax penalties.
Game 7 may also have been the final game of Paul Pierce’s NBA career. The 19-year NBA veteran had 6 points and 3 rebounds in 21 minutes. He has previously said this would be the final season of his Hall of Fame career.
The Jazz now face the Warriors in the 2nd round of the playoffs beginning on Tuesday night in Oakland.