This year’s NBA Playoffs began Saturday. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Clippers found themselves on the losing side. Lob City experienced a heartbreaking opening to its postseason campaign as it lost to the Utah Jazz, 97-95. This may have been tough on head coach Doc Rivers who blasted a reporter during the post-game press conference.
In the closing moments of Game 1, the Clippers were trailing 95-93 but had possession with less than 20 seconds left. The ball was given to Chris Paul who tied it at 95-95 following his quick runner off the glass.
The Jazz could have called a timeout after Paul’s shot, but the veteran Joe Johnson decided to dribble it out and milk the clock. He then attacked with only three seconds remaining and attempted a floater. Luckily for the 35-year-old, it went in right at the buzzer.
The Jazz now has the lead in their first-round series versus the Clippers. This is despite losing starting center Rudy Gobert very early in the contest. According to NBA.com, Gobert suffered multiple injuries to his left knee, although they are minor ones. The French big man, who needed to leave just 13 seconds into the game, was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and bone contusion.
Johnson, Gordon Hayward, George Hill, and Derrick Favors stepped up in Gobert’s absence. All four scored in double-digits to lift the Jazz over the Clippers. Johnson had 21 points while Hayward tallied 19. Hill and Favors contributed 16 and 15 points respectively. The appearance in this year’s NBA playoffs is the first time in five seasons for the Jazz, and it looks like it will be a great one.
For the Clippers, it was their Big Three who led the charge in the defeat. Paul and DeAndre Jordan recorded impressive double-doubles in a losing cause. CP3 had 25 points and 11 assists that came along with seven rebounds and three steals. Jordan only had 10 points, but he gathered 15 boards. He also tallied a steal and three rejections. Blake Griffin was the top guy in scoring for Los Angeles as he exploded for 26 points.
The Jazz winning at the buzzer was surely disappointing for the Clippers. That is why when Rivers was asked by a reporter about their final possession, he got a bit upset. In a report by CBS Sports, it was stated that Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report questioned Rivers if he thought of letting Paul use the clock before going for the game-tying shot.
“Who would do that? Like, why would you ever do that? So if you miss, the game’s over? That makes no sense. No, no, that is like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Now, when you’re down two, you try to score. You don’t wait. No. You score. If you can score in one second, you score,” Rivers responded annoyedly.
The Clippers’ efforts went to waste, but the play that knotted up the game may have been the right call at that point. If Rivers opted for his guys to go for the tie just a few seconds before the buzzer, then they had a lower chance of winning. Paul’s shot gave them an opportunity to defend and hope for an overtime period. Unfortunately, Johnson’s experience was beneficial to the Jazz, and it likely will be for the rest of their journey in the playoffs.
The NBA Playoffs for both the Clippers and Jazz will continue on Tuesday. Game 2 will still be held at the Staples Center. For the Clippers, this is already the sixth consecutive time they made it to the playoffs. Last season, they were eliminated early due to injuries to their key players. In franchise history, Los Angeles is yet to reach the Western Conference Finals.
As mentioned, this is a comeback for the Jazz in the NBA Playoffs. In the 2015-16 season, they had a chance, but a 60-point performance from Kobe Bryant denied them.
[Featured Image by Tony Gutierrez/AP Images]