The LA Clippers lost star player Blake Griffin for the rest of the playoffs, but fear not Clippers fans. They can still win this series, and this article examines that reality.
The series between the LA Clippers and the Utah Jazz is tied one game apiece as the series shifts to Utah. It is a rowdy crowd and a hard fought game like the previous two, and then in one single moment, the series turned.
The first half was winding down, and the clock had just ticked under four minutes remaining. The Clippers get a turnover, and Blake Griffin drives it hard toward the basket, and just as he reaches the rim, Rodney Hood meets him. Contact happens between the two players, and it changes the series for the Clippers. The ball goes through the net, but this seemingly average play ends Blake Griffin’s playoffs with a toe injury. Below is a highlight video from the game that features the play if you want to see it for yourself.
The Clippers held on and won game three in Utah 111-106 to take an advantage in the series, but gave that advantage right back after Sunday’s Game 4. The question is: Without Blake Griffin can LA win this series? According to NBA odds and betting at William Hill the answer is yes, and here are the reasons why.
Reason 1: Chris Paul
In any playoff series, give me the team with the best player and the Clippers still have that in future Hall of Famer Chris Paul. Paul is 31 years old now, and as I remarked to a family member during Game 3, he slow plays the first half, but when the game reaches crunch time watch out. Paul will still put the team on his back and almost will them to victory.
Chris Paul has been outstanding in the playoffs in each of his nine trips, but this year he looks like a man on a mission. During this series, Paul is averaging 26.8 points, 10.8 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.8 three-pointers made per game. The minute load is hefty at 36 a night, but that is not uncommon for superstar players in the playoffs.
The LA Clippers are going to put the ball in Chris Paul’s hands and live or die with him in this series. I think that alone is enough to push the Clippers past the Jazz in this playoff series.
Reason 2: Home Court
This one is short and sweet but still important. Utah still has to go to Los Angeles and defeat the Clippers in the Staples Center. LA lost 12 games at the Staples Center all regular season and another to the open this series. It is not an impossible task, but percentages say that the Clippers are the better team at home and with two home games remaining it is difficult to predict the Jazz taking the series.
Reason 3: Improved Bench
The Clippers made moves in the offseason to improve their bench. Matt Moore from CBS wrote early this season about how their improved bench play made LA a dangerous team this year.
A key cog in their bench unit Marreese Speights has become a starter with Blake’s injury and Austin Rivers is out with a hamstring injury, so the depth is an issue again. Raymond Felton has had a career rebirth the last two seasons, and Jamal Crawford is once again in the running for the sixth man of the year, so the bench is not entirely destitute.
I would argue they need to ditch Paul Pierce and give those minutes to Brandon Bass. Look I get it, Pierce helped Coach Doc Rivers win a Championship in Boston, and he was a great player and may just be a future Hall of Famer, but this is not 2008 anymore. Pierce will be 40 in October, and he just looks done. Conversely, Bass provides excellent production in spot minutes and brings a lot of energy off the bench. He would look great in that 10-15 minute role that Pierce has been playing if Coach Rivers would just lose the nostalgia and try to win this series in the present.
Reason 4: Return of Austin Rivers
This reason is still a bit of a question mark. The team said they eyed Game 4 for Rivers return early on, but that game has come and gone and still no sign of Austin Rivers. It is unclear if he will suit up at all in this series, but if he does, it would be a big boost to the LA Clippers.
Rivers showed some vast improvements this season. He nailed 37.1% of his three-point attempts or about 2% better than league average. That goes without mentioning the step forward he took in his playmaking and scoring this season. Rivers has always been an underrated defender, but his offense took a step forward this year and transformed him into a player worthy of 25-30 minutes a night.
No word yet on if he returns during this series. The fact that they were hoping for Game 4 and Game 7 would not be until next Sunday if it is necessary seems to be a positive sign. That would give him another whole week to heal up and hopefully, be ready to take on even a 15-minute workload would be a huge boost to this Clippers squad.
Reason 5: Playoff Experience
The last four seasons, the Utah Jazz have not qualified for the playoffs. They have a lot of homegrown talent, and most of those players had zero playoff experience entering this series. Sure they can rely on Joe Johnson, George Hill, and Boris Diaw. Three veteran guys who have been there a lot, but the Clippers dwarf them in playoff experience.
This Clippers squad has been a part of the last five playoffs and have exited in the first round just twice in those five years. They have a ton more playoff experience and a head coach who has won NBA Championships and I know some of you reading this think well this doesn’t matter. Think about yourself, though, say you have worked at a job for the last five years, but today you got promoted to work the most important machine in your factory. You have run similar machines, but not this one and you know the importance of this machine producing quality products. Are you going to be nervous and just a little more likely to make a mistake? I would be and so too might the Utah Jazz players.
The LA Clippers lost Blake Griffin in Game 2 of their series against the Utah Jazz and it is a big loss, but they can still win this series. I outlined five reasons why the Clippers should still take down the Utah Jazz, and I stand by every one of them. I think the Clippers win this series in seven games and move on to battle the mighty Golden State Warriors in Round 2. Thank you for reading.