clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Jazz-Clippers has been the closest and best series of the NBA first round

These two teams have given us great, tight basketball.

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t feel like anything in the Jazz-Clippers series has gone according to plan.

In the utopia version of this series, Blake Griffin wouldn’t have suffered a season-ending injury, Rudy Gobert wouldn’t have tweaked his knee just minutes into Game 1, and Gordon Hayward wouldn’t have suffered through food poisoning in Game 4.

In a perfect world, the next round wouldn’t be the historically good Warriors, but would offer a more realistic path to a championship. And yet, five games into this anticipated series, and every game has thrilled us at every turn.

This has been our closest — and our best — series in the first round. Even with everything that has gone wrong, who can dislike that?

Game 5 concluded with the Jazz taking a 3-2 lead in the series with a 96-92 win, and even the low-scoring game wouldn’t conclude before Joe Johnson had a dagger shot and Chris Paul hit a ridiculous three to keep things interesting.

Johnson has been a revelation in this series, the exact type of timely veteran scorer (and seven-time all-star, have you heard!?) the Jazz needed on a roster steeped with defense, but sometimes lacking battle-hardened contributors on the other end.

With the series shifting back to Utah and Griffin out for good, this may conclude in just a couple days now. Through those five games, each team has scored 495 points. The Jazz, fortunately for them, have rationed those points out in a manner that puts them up 3-2, instead of trailing 2-3. It does feel like anyone could have won this series, and if we could run this series back a few dozen more times, it might end in a similar sort of tie. These teams are incredibly evenly matched, and the actual product they’ve delivered onto the court has consistently been great, too.

Still, it also feels a tiny bit premature to count out Los Angeles — and more specifically, Paul, whose absurd play is the only reason the Clippers have had a chance — without giving him Game 6 and potentially Game 7 to spur some improbable, but not impossible, comeback. We’ve seen him beat San Antonio in seven games on one leg. He can likely do this same against a team without nearly the experience and pedigree, plus two fully functioning appendages. You’d be amazed how much that helps.

Both these teams are headed in somewhat different directions — the Jazz bringing their team together and hoping to rise up into the top of the Western Conference, while the Clippers are several years down that timeline and wondering if it’s even worth it to keep them together. Regardless who wins, we can respect they came together for some hellacious good basketball. That, always, is a good thing.