Beating the Utah Jazz isn't easy. Beating the Utah Jazz without their best player is slightly easier.
The Clippers failed to do that in game one of this series, as Rudy Gobert went down in the first minute of the opener, missing the rest of the game and all of game two. Gobert has been outstanding this season and may win Defensive Player of the Year, but missing him from the lineup opened the door for Los Angeles in a big way. They didn't walk through that door in game one.
In game two, however, the Clippers started out on the right foot. They jumped out to a 29-18 lead after the first quarter by attacking the paint and exploiting the opening left by the absence of Gobert. The Clips only took four threes in the first quarter and only made seven in the game.
That constantly attacking pace wasn't entirely sustainable (29 points in the first and only 99 in the game), but the spirit was right and it was enough for LA to control throughout. Blake Griffin had 20 points inside the three-point line (24 overall), DeAndre Jordan was 9/11 from the floor, and the Clippers scored 60 points in the paint as a team. The Jazz only grabbed three offensive rebounds. Rudy Gobert averages more than that per game.
Los Angeles didn't shoot well outside, but they didn't need to because they were able to get good looks inside. These are consecutive buckets for the Clippers.
While obviously some of this is the aforementioned loss of a giant Frenchman for the Jazz, a good portion of it is the Clippers rediscovering their stride a little bit. Los Angeles was hot coming into the playoffs. They won the final seven in the regular season (and 11 of their final 13) to get this home-court advantage. Thanks to the win in game two, they're at least guaranteed a return to Los Angeles.
As a side note, make sure to get your Los Angeles Clippers tickets to that return game in LA. If this series blows up and goes wrong, who knows what this roster will look like next year? Blake and Paul are both on player options, Redick is a free agent, and LA will have never had enough success to justify re-signing everyone at higher prices. Think about that for a minute - what happens to this team if the Clippers lose this series? Support them while you still can, I guess.
In addition to the pick and rolls, the Clippers just moved. They forced 13 turnovers and had plays like this which contributed to the laugh-out-loud efficient 27-33 shooting inside the restricted area.
Here's the funny thing about the Clippers though: DJ became Blake over the past few years and nobody really noticed.
Blake Griffin was the human highlight reel for the first few years of his career. He was dunking over humans, cars, and probably buildings. He dunked indiscriminately. He played borderline violent basketball. He was terrifying, even if he couldn't necessarily shoot the ball.
Now Blake hits threes down the stretch to ice games in the playoffs. It seems...weird. In his first four years in the league, Blake Griffin averaged over 2.5 dunks per game. In the past three seasons he's averaged 1.2 dunks per game. This year he was barely over 1.1 (68 dunks in 61 games). It's not a bad thing, of course. He's shooting better from elsewhere on the court, he's become a solid post passer, and he's allowed DeAndre Jordan to flourish as a slashing big man who can dunk from anywhere within 10 feet of the hoop.
It's the right adjustment for the team, it's just an odd development for a 26-27 year old to stop playing his high-flying nature around the rim at such a young age.
In any case, whatever Blake Griffin has been doing over the last 15 games has been working. The Clippers are winning, they're even in this series, and they're looking to steal back the home-court advantage by continuing to pound the paint without Gobert. If they could get Redick hot, look out.
It may be 1-1, but Los Angeles has a bright outlook.