It started with the deafening roar of 18,000 strong. It ended with the slow march of fans heading for the exits early. Now the Utah Jazz face a must-win situation if there is to be another night of basketball at Vivint Arena this season.
The Jazz find themselves on the brink of elimination, trailing the L.A. Clippers 3-2 in this best-of-seven second-round playoff series, after suffering a 119-111 defeat on Wednesday night at Vivint Arena.
“We gotta win,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said as his focus shifted to Friday night’s Game 6 in Los Angeles. “We gotta get out there and do anything we can to win the game. We know that we’re going to need a better collective effort than we had tonight. Hopefully, we get more urgency. Because now if we lose, we’re going home. You can’t get more urgent than that. We have to get our mind right and get ready to get a win over there.”
Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic scored a team-high 32 points, hitting six consecutive 3-pointers in the first quarter Wednesday night. But Clipper forward Paul George scored a game-high 37 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to help L.A. overcome the absence of All-Star Kawhi Leonard (right knee injury) and an early 3-point barrage from the Jazz.
The Jazz blistered the nets in the first half, hitting on 17 of their 30 attempts from behind the arc.
Their halftime, lead, however, was only five points thanks to 11 turnovers (leading to 17 points for L.A.) and some defensive breakdowns.
“I felt maybe we could have been ahead more than we were if it weren’t for some mistakes,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.
“In a way, I wish we would have missed some shots so we knew we had to play some defense to win this game,” Gobert added. “We didn’t have urgency early in the game.”
Those mistakes and lack of urgency were only compounded by shouting struggles in the second half. The Jazz shot just 3-for-24 from deep after halftime.
“I thought in the third quarter we didn’t get as good of looks,” Snyder said. “I thought some of those shots were just harder shots, lower-percentage shots. But that’s who we’ve been the whole season. We have to get good ones. … But we’ve had plenty of games where we keep shooting and we start making late.”
The Clippers outscored the Jazz 32-18 in the third quarter. Still, Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz found themselves trailing by just four with 2 minutes to play in the contest. That was as close as the Jazz would get down the stretch. Mitchell finished the night with 21 points while continuing to fight through the pain in his ankle that has bothered him all series.
“It’s disappointing, understanding that this was a winnable game for us outside of Paul having a great night,” Mitchell said. “But understanding that we can’t really sit here and sulk. The series is not over. We have a lot of life left to give and a lot of juice left to give. We have to go out there and play with a desperation we haven’t played with before. Otherwise, we’re going home.”
It’s win or go home as the series moves back to L.A. for Game 6. Tipoff is set for Friday at 8 p.m.