With the playoffs underway shortly, the Jazz are ready to go. After a several year absence, the Jazz will face the playoff-tested Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are an experienced team that relies heavily on star talent. While the Jazz may not quite have the same top end talent, they make up for it in depth. In this preview, we’ll address the wing position.
Jazz Wings: Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson, Alec Burks.
This is arguably the best group of players for the Jazz. While they’ve struggled with consistency and health with their point guards and big men, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, and Gordon Hayward have all been key to this team throughout the entire season, missing only a combined 13 games. These three, along with the up-and-down Rodney Hood, will make up the rotation for the Jazz.
Clippers Wings: JJ Reddick, Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute, Wesley Johnson.
While the wing position is arguably the biggest strength for the Jazz, it may be the biggest weakness for the Clippers. The Clippers primarily start two players who are gifted on one side of the court. JJ Reddick is an exceptional shooter, but a one-dimensional player, and Luc Mbah a Moute, a defensive stopper, is limited offensively. The Clippers will also rely on Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers when he returns from injury, likely at some point during the series.
|Luc Mbah a Moute||80||22.3||.505||0.5||1.4||.391||.678||2.2||0.5||1.0||6.1|
Who is the standout player?
In this matchup, the wing position begins and ends with Gordon Hayward. As a first time All-Star, Hayward has established himself as an exceptional player that can lead a very good team. He’s averaging career numbers, and he’s shooting nearly 40% from three. While he’s struggled against the Clippers this year, shooting only 38% for 16 points in three games, he will play a huge role in this series.
The key thing to watch is how the Clippers continue to defend Hayward. Were the three games representative of how Hayward will perform, or can he step up and put up numbers consistent or better than his season averages? Mbah a Moute is an excellent defender, and he will surely play big minutes defending Hayward, particularly if Rivers is out.
What is the key stat to watch?
Both teams will need to attempt and make a large number of threes. This series could be impacted greatly by the ability of the wings to hit big from outside.
For the Clippers, this starts with JJ Reddick. He hits 43% of his 6 attempts a game, and the Clippers are excellent at getting him open looks off screens. Can Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles guard him well enough to limit his success from beyond the arc? In addition, can renowned Jazz killer, but historically poor playoff performer Jamal Crawford hit his shots? Can Mbah a Moute hit open shots? These are all key for the Clippers.
The Jazz have quietly turned into an exceptional three-point shooting team. Hayward, Johnson, and Ingles are all at 40% or better, and Hood isn’t far behind at 37%. The Jazz have been both streaky against the Clippers from three this season. Consistency from the wings is huge, especially if Hood, Johnson, and Ingles get open looks as the Clippers look to focus on Hayward.
Who is the x-factor for each team?
Clippers – Austin Rivers.
The much maligned Rivers has turned out to be a key piece for the Clippers this year. He has improved across the board, posting career high numbers and a solid 37% from three. He has shown to be a more than capable defender, and he often closes games at the small forward position for the Clippers. He currently is struggling with a hamstring injury, but is aiming to be back for game three or four. His addition could be big later in the series.
Jazz – Rodney Hood.
Hood looked to take a big step forward this season, but he has been in and out with injuries all season. The Jazz have played well without him, but when he is on the court and playing well, he takes their team to a different level. He has a record of being a streaky player, but if he can put up some consistent performances, he could swing the series in the favor of the Jazz. Look for the Jazz to go to Hood as the defensive pressure is strong on Hayward.
Who will win this positional matchup?
The Jazz have the clear advantage in this matchup, and should win. Reddick is a very good shooter, and Mbah a Moute is a fine defender, but they can’t match the Jazz wing depth. Ingles, Hood, Hayward, and Johnson will have to play well and win this positional matchup, as the real star power of the Clippers lies with their point guard and big men.