The LA Clippers take on the Utah Jazz tomorrow night in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinals matchup.
The Clippers are all tied up with the Jazz in this series, and I caught up with the Site Expert over at The J-Notes, FanSided’s Utah Jazz FanSided page, to discuss the series and find out how he sees this playoff round so far.
Matt Giles answered several questions from me about his perspective:
Q&A with Matt Giles
Q: What’s the biggest thing that’s surprised you about the Clippers this series?
A: I’m surprised by the relentless energy that the Clippers have displayed. After their seven-game bout with the Dallas Mavericks, I figured they would have looked more exhausted and dinged up than the Jazz. Yet it’s been quite the opposite to this point.
Q: Did you expect the Clippers to be better than what they’ve been so far or worse?
A: Well, I expected Utah to play with more fire and composure, especially in the first 24 minutes of these games. Perhaps Los Angeles deserves a sizeable chunk of the credit, though.
Simply put, I underestimated the Clippers’ ability to seemingly intimidate and stifle the Jazz early in contests via their grown-man strength and deep rotation. Overall, considering their 31-point edge through four games and substantial first-half leads in three of the battles, they’ve been about as dominant as one could be in a 2-2 series.
Q: What are your predictions for the rest of the series?
A: I see the Jazz bouncing back to pull out a close win in Game 5 in front of their home crowd before losing again in Los Angeles in Game 6. In other words, this series is likely to require a Game 7.
True, Game 7 would be in Utah. But with more deep playoff experience among the Clippers’ top threats, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the road team find a way to come out on top in that final clash.
Q: Do you think “Playoff P” is back?
A: Yes, at least against the Jazz. George’s production and confidence appear to be increasing from one game to the next. His scoring has been fairly efficient, which is largely due to Utah’s lack of premier on-ball defenders and his penchant in getting to the foul line, where he’s 28-for-31 this series.
Plus, “Playoff P” has been on the floor longer than any player from either side. In short, one could argue George’s versatile, durable presence has been the difference, most notably in the past two outings.
Q: Do you think Joe Ingles and Paul George will get into it this series?
A: While there has been some jawing between the two, I wouldn’t expect a full return of their beef from 2018. After all, Ingles and George have each had three years to mature and cool off, and both have basically downplayed their feud during interviews this series.
That said, it’s certainly possible for some shoves to ensue in the heat of the moment. If so, then I’d expect that moment to be in Salt Lake City and coincide with mocking “Playoff P” chants from the Vivint Arena crowd.
Q: What has been the Clippers’ biggest mistake in their efforts in guarding Donovan Mitchell?
A: Actually, I don’t think they’ve made many mistakes. Rather, despite giving up 30 or more points to Mitchell in each of the four games, the Clippers have appeared to somewhat enjoy the two-time All-Star “getting his” while the rest of the Jazzmen often stand around and watch.
Also, Los Angeles has excelled across the two most recent first quarters in frustrating the potent righthanded playmaker by double-teaming him every time he thinks about going right. To that point, Mitchell’s stubbornness in regularly bullying his way through the traps, instead of finding his buddies on the perimeter, has obviously played a part in the rest of the squad playing a bit rusty at times.
Q: How bad did the Jazz miss Mike Conley in Games 1-4?
A: First and foremost, Conley’s absence (hamstring) has slowed the Utah Jazz’s typically uptempo pace. He excels in transition passing and also by creating quick shots for himself and teammates in a halfcourt setting. Without his renowned pick-and-roll chemistry with Rudy Gobert, especially, Utah is missing a key weapon and becoming too reliant on Mitchell’s production.
In other words, Conley is better than Mitchell at getting others involved.
Furthermore, Conley is one of the Jazz’s more consistent 3-point shooters, so the team is missing one of its lethal triggers.
Finally, he’s a far better perimeter defender than the replacement starter, Joe Ingles, so it’s unlikely the Clippers would have seen as much open space from downtown with Conley on the court. And of course, lacking his leadership and experience, the oft-frazzled Jazzmen are simply taking too long to recover from Los Angeles’ early punches.
It was great to hear what Giles had to say about this series.
It’s been as competitive as possible through five games so far, and both teams look the part of a top four Western Conference team.