With two straight losses in tow, the Utah Jazz must reformulate their mojo.
After getting out to an impressive 2-0 start, the Utah Jazz looked nothing like the team with the NBA’s best record the past two games. Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals is on tap for 8 p.m. MT Wednesday in Salt Lake City with the series now tied, 2-2, after back-to-back lackluster performances on the road by the No. 1 seed Jazzmen versus the No. 4 seed Los Angeles Clippers.
The Jazz discovered firsthand just how good Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are in the playoffs. Utah has been unable to figure anything out on defense to slow those two down.
But while the Jazzmen have experienced some defensive struggles over the last two games, every defense in the NBA would struggle to defend Leonard and George at the moment.
Where Utah has really let itself down is on the offensive end. During the regular season, the squad was putting up historical shooting numbers and carried that over into the series against the Memphis Grizzles and then early in the series against Los Angeles.
Utah Jazz sorely missing Mike Conley on offense
With Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley out in all four games due to a right hamstring strain, Donovan Mitchell has had to shoulder almost the entire offensive load.
Mitchell has put up big scoring numbers, scoring 37 points again in Monday night’s 118-104 Game 4 loss. However, his production has been anything but easy, as he shot just 9-for-26 from the field and has seen more double teams and pressure when the ball is in his hands.
What’s made things even more difficult for Mitchell is his teammates not being able to knock down shots.
Bojan Bogdanovic has been a reliable scorer all season long but has struggled to get going over the last two games, shooting just 8-for-22 in the last two losses.
Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson played well in Game 3 but couldn’t find his rhythm offensively in Game 4, going just 3-for-12 from the field. He is a big part of the Jazz’s offense, especially without Conley. Right now, the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year is the only Utah player besides Mitchell who can break down a defender 1-on-1 and go create his own offense.
Los Angeles has done a solid job of defending Utah’s lethal pick-and-roll offense. Rudy Gobert has not been able to get any easy baskets in the paint. Since Utah struggled a bit to knock down 3-pointers, going 17-for-42, the Clippers have been able to clog up the lane and force the Jazz to kick the ball out to the perimeter rather than drop off a pass to Gobert for an easy two at the rim.
Gobert’s offense thrives on the Utah Jazz’s ability to penetrate and knock down outside shots. And it’s just not the same without Conley on the court.
Throughout Game 4, I thought Mitchell’s shot selection was questionable. Early in the game, he settled for a lot of outside shots. The 24-year-old is certainly capable of making those shots, but he has to be able to move the ball around some first and shift LA’s defense before looking to score.
If the Jazzmen get Conley back, then that will allow for better looks for the rest of their offense. Utah’s offense has really struggled the past two games with ball movement and spacing.