Clippers subdue the beast: end to Jazz streak

Tremendous game in LA between two teams that showed why they are two of the top contenders for the NBA title right now.


Playoff basketball, the good one. Heavy weights exchanging blows, sensation of territories marked by what may come in the future. And defeat of the Utah Jazz, which is certainly news. Quin Snyder's team had 20 victories in 21 games, from the initial 4-4 to a 24-5 that had the NBA with their mouths open. A loss, against the Nuggets, since January 7, now another nine victories in a row to lead the League and catch up with the great aspirants. Of course, by sensations. Someday they had to lose, of course. And it was, not coincidentally, against Clippers who are making much less noise than last season but are much better. Now yes, looking like candidates for the throne. Now yes, a danger for any rival. Also for these Jazz hitherto pluperfects.

It is 24-6 for some and 22-9 for others, the head of the NBA with Nets and Sixers leading the East and the Lakers in the middle (22-8) but at a delicate moment: without Anthony Davis, without Dennis Schröder ... yes It seems obvious that the champion will be one of the great favorites if he reaches the playoffs healthy, it is also right now that the Clippers and Jazz will have the highest aspirations there, who played their second duel in a row but the first with real fire. On Wednesday Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were not there, and the victory fell under its own weight (96-114) even without a Mike Conley who also returned for this duel, which was what it looked like it was going to be: tremendous. The Clippers, with their two megastars, scored 20 more points than 48 hours earlier (116-112). And they won.

Tyronn Lue changed the atmosphere of the locker room, harmful last season, and took steps in the formation of a culture that continues on the track. With the arrival of Serge Ibaka and Nico Batum, the Clippers are ultra-physical, thanks in part to the most explosive version of Kwahi Leonard in a long time, on the level of entering the MVP debates. The grip of his team's hyper-muscular defense dried up capital areas of the Jazz, who did not find comfortable routes to the rim or circulate with the usual joy (only 13 assists); the triples did not come to the rescue either (not enough when everything else failed) and the rebound went from strong point to Achilles heel through which the Salt Lake City bled: 11-6 on offense, with a definitive pair from Kawhi (at the end, 29 + 5 + 4) and a few important ones from Zubac.

Even so, the Jazz were alive until the end, because they are a great team. They clung to the game when they were shaken in an unusual way in the first half, in which they survived (57-49) after being faced with a dangerous -15 (55-40) shortly before. They came out of the locker room with their infernal version and with Donovan Mitchell (35 + 4 + 5) pushing to sign a partial of 6-19 (63-67) that did not unbalance the game because the Clippers put their foot firmly on the ground, they held on and they scratched everywhere: defense, rebounding, cold blood on free throws (a lot at the end) and 3-pointers in important moments from Beverley (17 points, in an excellent moment) and Marcus Morris (17 + 7). Lou Williams' dribbling of points capped a win that is a blow to the table for a Clippers who are doing everything that needs to be done to change their destiny, and their narrative, of the past season.

In manifest inferiority first, very aggressive later and finally weighed down by a series of small errors that caused important differences (poorly closed rebounds, poorly made fouls ...) the Jazz missed the hyper-productive version of Ingles and Gobert (8 points, 15 rebounds , 3 plugs but less government than usual in the areas). Sometimes you have to lose, of course, and it was them in a game that does not question their options but drives those of their rival, some formidable Clippers. It was proved by this heavyweight clash, powerful basketball.

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