The Utah Jazz are finally back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, and have won their first playoff game since 2010.
The series with the Los Angeles Clippers is currently tied 2-2 as they head back to LA for game five.
Game one began with a major setback for Utah. Only 17 seconds into the game, starting center Rudy Gobert went down with a knee injury. The Jazz were still able to pull off the win due to last second heroics by Joe Johnson. The final score was 97-95.
Game two went to the Clippers, 99-91. They took advantage of Gobert’s absence, dominated the first quarter and maintained the lead throughout the game.
The next game marked the return of playoff basketball in Salt Lake City. Utah seemed to thrive off of the crowd’s energy for the majority of game three. Clippers’ starting power forward Blake Griffin went out at halftime with a toe injury. He will not play for the rest of the playoffs. LA was still able to pull off a comeback led by point gaurd Chris Paul, and took a 2-1 lead on the series.
Down in a best of seven series, game four was a must win for Utah. Gobert was cleared to play again only eight days after spraining his knee. The Jazz were able to tie the series despite starting small forward Gordon Hayward leaving the game with food poisoning.
Game four is tonight at 8:30.
Utah has been going through a rebuilding process, and they are finally starting to see results. This all started with the hiring of General Manager Dennis Lindsey.
Many players have shown great improvement from seasons past, most notably Hayward and Gobert. Hayward was named to the West All-Star team and is averaging career highs in nearly every category.
Gobert seemed to be the only Jazzman who could avoid injury all season. He played in 81 out of the total 82 regular season games. Because of this, he was able to prove that he could lead the team. As a potential Defensive Player of the Year, he averaged a double-double with points and rebounds, as well as a league-high 2.6 blocks.
A large part of this big turnaround for the Jazz were the acquisitions they made during the offseason. George Hill (PG), Boris Diaw (PF), and Joe Johnson (SF) have all filled their needed roles this season.
Utah has had a season plagued with injuries, especially with starters. Despite these setbacks, they finished with a 51-31 record and the fifth seed in the West.
Head coach Quin Snyder, in his third season with the Jazz, has been key to Utah’s recent successes. He found a solid rotation that allowed role players to help fill the spots of the injured starters.
Towards the end of the season, Utah was locked in a tough battle with the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth seed. Though they ended up with the same record, LA had won the season series 3-1, giving them home court advantage in the upcoming playoff series. This did not deter Utah, however, as they finally had a fully healthy roster headed into the playoffs, barring backup point guard Raul Neto’s left ankle sprain, who has since recovered.