In a series where home court advantage meant little, the Utah Jazz were able to go into the Staples Center without sleeping in their own beds, driving their own cars to the arena or high-fiving their own fans in the tunnel and win the league’s sole Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers, 104-91.
Just how there was no rhyme or reason, much of a common collective thread, to the rest of the teams’ six previous postseason matchups, the storyline for Sunday’s matinee battle was Rudy Gobert foul trouble and Derrick Favors’ ability to step in and battle in the fighting Frenchman’s stead.
Aside from missing two entire games and all but 11 seconds of Game 1, Gobert was as much a non-factor as he’d been all series when he picked up quick fouls seemingly each time his Nikes hit the hardwood. Rudy played just under 13 and a half minutes, though he wasn’t being held out for injury, scoring a single free throw and snaring four boards. He fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Rudy: "I tried to play basketball tonight, but maybe I just wasn't allowed."
— Spencer Checketts (@1280Spence) April 30, 2017
“I think for us, this has been a year that’s been, you can either focus on the adversity or focus on the opportunity,” Quin Snyder said postgame. “That old adage, you’ve got to be ready. That was true tonight.”
“Tonight I think sometimes it’s good to be needed,” Snyder said of Derrick Favors’ performance when Rudy rode the pine with foul trouble. “He was going to have to play at a high level for us to have a chance to win and he did.”
Favors was dynamic, going for 17/11 in just under 30 minutes of play, though he, too, fouled out in the game’s final frame.
“I’ve struggled a lot this year with injuries… I felt like I owed [my teammates], especially in this game,” he said. “When Rudy got in foul trouble, I had to make sure I was ready mentally and physically and wanted to pay them back for holding it down all season.”
And just like that, the LA Clippers’ slogan — “It Takes Everything” — was embodied more by the guys in green than LA’s homers.
“Everything” included a much better shooting performance from Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood, the former of which went 0-for in games 5 and 6. Tonight, the duo combined for 8-12 and a much-needed 23 points. On the flip side, Joe Ingles continued to make JJ Redick consider reenrolling at Duke. Redick was 1-5 in 22 minutes and his only made field goal was one 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that brought the Clippers within single digits, though the game wasn’t particularly close after the Jazz built up a 21-point lead in the third quarter. Redick was a -16 on the night.
Chris Paul — who’s been phenomenal all series — had his lone stinker in seven games, going for 13/9. He shot 31% from the floor and 14% from beyond the arc. Part of that is likely attributed to him tweaking his ankle in the midst of the game; He went 1-9 in the second half.
“I’ve got to be better… I thought they did a good job tonight of shrinking the court,” Paul said.
Entering Game 7, Chris Paul averaged 10.3 PPG in the 4th quarter, most in the postseason. Paul shot 0-of-4 the 4th quarter of Game 7.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 30, 2017
George Hill described in a little more detail what Utah was able to do defensively to have success on CP3:
“We talked about our bigs getting up a little bit more, being active. Making [Chris] hit DeAndre and other guys on the short roll… It was just a great team effort.”
Chris ended up 6-19 on the night — his lone inefficient effort of the series.
He and Quin Snyder shared a great moment when they exchanged turns on the podium in the postgame presser:
Jazz coach Quin Snyder hugs Chris Paul after the Clippers’ Game 7 loss pic.twitter.com/usdfZVzchA
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 30, 2017
All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the two teams’ leading scorers!
DeAndre Jordan was effective in his time on the floor, especially with no Rudy Gobert to deter his roll. He had 24/17 in just under 40 minutes. The Jazz put him on the line 15 times and he only converted six gimmes.
Gordon Hayward took his chance in front of a courtside Jay-Z and Beyonce to do a little bit of everything. Though G was limited to six points in the first half, he had 20 second-half points in a team-high 42 minutes. He also grabbed eight rebounds, dished three assists and converted as many free throws as DeAndre, but without any missed opportunities.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) April 30, 2017
“Give credit to Utah. They won this series,” Doc Rivers said.
But it didn’t come easy.
“I don’t know if there’s been a series where the two teams have won collectively five road games,” Snyder said. “In some ways it was fitting it would be through a difficult set of circumstances. As much as our fans at home have been terrific, I thought tonight that wherever we were it was going to have to be something that came from our group internally more than external.”
The Jazz will now face the buzz-saw offense and defense of the Golden State Warriors and will head directly to Oakland to do it. But they’ve done it having battled through their first playoff series as a group, and face more uncharted territory as a team.
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) April 30, 2017
Game 1 will be played Tuesday at Oracle Arena.