It’s a testament to these Clippers that, for as much of a slog as this series has become, they’ve still found ways to succeed. Since Blake Griffin’s injury and Gobert’s return, Utah has wrested control over how these games are going to be played–slow, ugly, and with a lot of flailing. This mostly plays to the Jazz’s favor, they’re the slowest team in the league and as we’ve seen from the late game heroics of one Isolation Johnson, they know how to squeeze out points at the very end of that shot clock. On the other end they make you work, every open look feels like a fleeting miracle.
And yet, as the Clippers have struggled to push the pace in the wake of Griffin’s injury, they’ve rediscovered how devastating a player Chris Paul can be when the game grinds to a halt. Paul, 29 points on 10 for 20 with 8 assists, asserted his will on a Jazz team that seemed content to switch on every screen and roll involving him–much to Joe Ingles repeated chagrin.
Rivers, Crawford, and Mbah a Moute combined for a much needed 38 points on 50 percent shooting and Jordan, after a particularly brutal stretch in the third quarter where he turned the ball over five times in increasingly bewildering fashion, ended up besting Gobert with 13 points and 18 rebounds. The Jazz, meanwhile, got nothing from previous Clipper killers Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson who went a combined 5 for 23 from the field, although many of these shots were as open as they were in Game 5.
This, in fact, may have been the biggest difference in the game for the Jazz. Utah had almost the same number of uncontested field goal attempts in game 5 (32) as they did in game 6 (33) but only made 39 percent of them as opposed to the 53 percent they shot in game 5. This would be a worrying trend for the Clippers if the two teams were forced to play each other another 82 times some kind of hellish basketball purgatory, but as the Jazz learned tonight trends matter little when you’re this late in a series.
That said, Utah still had a chance. The game felt won after another Chris Paul drive that victimized Ingles and led to an open Austin Rivers three pointer that put the Clips up 10 with a minute and change to go in the fourth. But what followed was an almost predictable set of blunders on the part of the Clippers that gave Utah a chance to tie the game with a three with three seconds to go. Joe Johnson, as he had not managed to do up till this point in the series, somehow missed.
It wasn’t pretty, entertaining, or even all that encouraging, but it was very Clippers. As it should be.
Game 7 here we go.