Jazz 104, Clippers 91 | Jazz win series, 4-3: Jazz Top the Clippers in Game 7, Escorting Them to Another Early Exit
The only real mystery is the degree to which the team will be made over. A lot depends on how much the Clippers have tested the patience of their expressive owner, Steve Ballmer, who paid $2 billion, a league record, for the franchise in 2014.
“I’m thinking about the loss today instead of the summer,” Coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “I’m sure everyone will have their own suggestions. We’ve been reading our obituary for about three months now.”
The Jazz-Clippers matchup was the only playoff series that stretched to the maximum seven games during an otherwise suspense-free first round. That the teams went the distance was hardly surprising. They entered the postseason with identical records and an even split in their regular-season matchups. The widest margin of victory in the first six games of the series was 8 points, and the visitors had fallen just twice.
Home teams have historically won 80 percent of Game 7s in the N.B.A., but the Clippers had to withstand the loss of a cornerstone player. Griffin took permanent leave from the postseason after he sustained a toe injury in Game 3.
“That’s tough,” Pierce said. “Imagine the Houston Rockets without James Harden or Oklahoma City without Russell Westbrook.”
Though Rivers called Griffin’s absence a “major wound,” he added: “There’s no excuses. We lost.”
For its part, Utah endured the comings and goings of its dynamic pivotman, Rudy Gobert, who had been shelved with leg and ankle injuries sustained in separate games.
On Sunday, fouls — two whistled against Gobert in the opening three minutes — drove him to the bench. But his understudy, Derrick Favors, kept the Jazz from losing ground by delivering three baskets without a miss, five rebounds and two assists through the remainder of the quarter.
Two minutes had not expired in the second period before Gobert hacked another Clipper and was removed. On came Favors, who continued apace, padding his statistics by halftime to nearly double-double status.
The Clippers, troubled by turnovers, muffed layups and general fumble-itis, drifted behind by 11 points, only to close the deficit to 7 at the break.
Utah’s revolving door at center turned again after Gobert committed his fourth foul early in the third quarter, but Favors made two subsequent baskets amid a Jazz burst that put them ahead by 21. The slimmest spread the rest of the way was 8.
Gobert fouled out with a single point, but Favors compensated with 17, matching George Hill as Utah’s scoring runner-up, behind Gordon Hayward, who had 26 points.
Rivers has long contended that no player approaches the competitiveness of his point guard, Paul. But in this game, Paul wore down and logged half as many turnovers (three) as baskets (six) while failing to lift teammates to his level.
The exceptions were center DeAndre Jordan (24 points, 16 rebounds) and the reserve Jamal Crawford, who caught fire late to amass 20 points.
Paul, who faced frequent double-teaming, was hard on himself. “Man, I know I’ve got to be better,” he said, “especially Game 7 like this.”
The solution to climbing out of the playoff rut? “Keep working,” Paul said, “keep playing, keep training, doing all the different type stuff until you break through.”
While Paul is expected to remain a Clipper, Redick may have worn out his welcome with a 3-point outing. He was latched to the bench for the bulk of the second half.
Distressed after the game, Redick said his future was “probably the furthest thing from my mind right now.”
Asked how expectations fit with the cold reality of an early ouster, Redick snapped, “You never go into the playoffs hoping you go past the first round,” suggesting that the ultimate goal is much greater. He added, “What kind of expectations are that?”
Others deflected inquiries about how the roster should — or will — be reshaped. Jordan, asked three times, took a vow of silence.
Paul said: “Luckily, that’s not my job, know what I mean? That’s not my job, to maneuver who’s here and who’s there.”
Pierce, with the perspective of 19 years in the league and with no further ties to the team, was just as noncommittal. “That’s a great question,” he said, then paused before adding, “for upper management.”
As the Clippers wait for the answer, Utah will meet the Golden State Warriors in the second round. The Jazz had not advanced past the first stage since 2010. They are a long way from getting stuck in their own holding pattern.
An earlier version of this article misidentified one of the Clippers. He is Jamal Crawford, not Jordan Crawford.
Continue reading the main story