Let’s get this thing going.
After five long years, the Jazz are finally back in the playoffs, where they’ll face the star-studded LA Clippers in the opening round. The teams finished the regular season with identical 51-31 records, though the Clippers will have home-court advantage because they won the season series 3-1.
Here are a few things to watch out for ahead of Game 1 on Saturday night.
Players in the Spotlight
Chris Paul (PG)
- 18.1 points, 9.2 assists per game
- Four-time All-NBA First Team
- 2006 NBA Rookie of the Year
- Six-time All-Defensive First Team
- Nine-time NBA All-Star
Blake Griffin (PF)
- 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists per game
- Three-time All-NBA Second Team
- 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year
- Five-time NBA All-Star
- 2009 National College Player of the Year
DeAndre Jordan (C)
- 2016 All-NBA First Team
- 2017 NBA All-Star
- Two-time All-Defensive First Team
- No. 1 in the NBA in FG% (71.4), No. 3 in rebounds (13.8 per game)
Gordon Hayward (SF)
- 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 3-pointers per game
- 2017 NBA All-Star
- 1/16/17 Western Conference Player of the Week
Rudy Gobert (C)
- No. 1 in the NBA in blocks (2.6 per game), No. 4 in rebounds (12.8 per game), No. 2 in FG% (66.1)
- 14.0 points per game
- No. 2 in the NBA offensive rating, No. 3 in defensive rating
George Hill (PG)
- 16.9 points, 4.2 assists, 1.9 3-pointers per game
- 11/7/16 Western Conference Player of the Week
The teams have faced each other 177 times overall, with the Jazz owning a 100-77 advantage. Recently, though, the Clippers have dominated the series. LA has won 18 of the past 20 meetings, including 13 in a row from February 1, 2012 to November 25, 2015.
The teams have faced off in the playoffs twice before—in 1992 and 1997—with the Jazz winning both series. The Jazz swept the Clippers 20 years ago in the opening round of the 1997 playoffs. Utah went on to reach the NBA Finals that season.
This year the Clippers won the season series 3-1, with Utah’s only win coming in Salt Lake City on March 13. Gordon Hayward (27 points), George Hill (18 points, six assists) and Joe Ingles (18 points off the bench) led the Jazz to a 114-108 victory that night.
Utah allowed only 96.8 points per game, the fewest in the NBA this season and 1.3 points better than the second-place Spurs. This is partly because the Jazz play at the NBA’s slowest pace, and partly because they allow their opponents to shoot only 44.3 percent from the field (No. 2 in the league).
Rudy Gobert not only led the NBA in blocks per game (2.6), he was also the league’s best rim protector. Gobert allowed opponents to shoot only 43.9 percent on shots within six feet of the basket, tops among players who defended at least 400 shots. Gobert defended a league-high 826 shots at the rim.
The Clippers ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring at 108.7 points per game. They were efficient from the field (No. 2 at 47.5 percent shooting) and took good care of the ball (No. 7 at 12.5 turnovers per game).
Gordon Hayward has now increased his scoring average in each of his seven career seasons. He averaged 5.4 points as a rookie, 16.2 points in his first year as a full-time starter in 2013-14, and a career-high 21.9 points per game this season. Hayward shot 47.1 percent from the field and 84.4 percent from the free-throw line this season, and he set a career high with 2.0 3-pointers per game.
Though their playing styles are significantly different, the Jazz (+3.9) and Clippers (+4.3) both ranked in the NBA’s top six in point differential.
“There’s a number of things that are going on. One, there’s our health. Two, there’s just the confidence of playing well going into the postseason. And then there’s seeding and home court and all those things. … Our goal the last couple of weeks has been to see if we can get better. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
Game 1 — Jazz @ Clippers, Saturday, April 15, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2 — Jazz @ Clippers, Tuesday, April 18, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3 — Clippers @ Jazz, Friday, April 21, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4 — Clippers @ Jazz, Sunday, April 23, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5* — Jazz @ Clippers, Tuesday, April 25, TBD
Game 6* — Clippers @ Jazz, Friday, April 28, TBD
Game 7* — Jazz @ Clippers, Sunday, April 30, TBD