After the Utah Jazz claimed Game 1 in Los Angeles, Gordon Hayward knew the Clippers would put it all on the line to avoid a second loss at home.
“We know that they are going to come out and be a lot more physical tonight,” Hayward told the media before the game. “We have to be ready for that.”
The Jazz were ready and again put up a fight at the Staples Center but fell 99-91. Gordon finished with a team-high 20 points and was 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, but the All-Star was challenged by some tenacious defense by Luc Mbah a Moute.
“Luc was amazing,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “Probably 20 of the toughest points (Hayward) ever had to get. Luc just constantly keeps coming.”
Aside from his 20 points, Hayward added six rebounds and two assists. Both Gordon and Joe Johnson were missing their usual shooting strokes in Game 2, combining to go 10-for-31 from the field. However, head coach Quin Snyder wasn’t discouraged by the off night.
“I thought Gordon had some open looks and so did Joe [Johnson], and we’ve just got to keep taking those,” Snyder said.
The Jazz went down early, and with Utah’s top rim protector, Rudy Gobert, out of commission, the Clippers dominated inside the paint with 60 points. But the Jazz kept chipping away, just as they have done all season.
“We feel like we didn’t play our best basketball, [but] we hung around and hung around,” Hayward said.
Ultimately the Jazz just weren’t able to make enough shots, something Gordon acknowledged after the game.
“I thought I shot the ball decently well from 3, missed way too many twos, probably some tough ones,” Hayward said. “I feel like I could have gotten maybe better looks. But they do a good job of trying to corral our ball-handlers into their bigs and force you into tough shots. I think we need to try to get better looks, and we got some open ones tonight, we just didn’t knock them down. But definitely, definitely I can help facilitate more, play-make a little bit better to get us some better looks.”
Now the Jazz look at a series with the Clippers tied at one game a piece with both teams coming to Utah.
“Pressure is something that I’ve embraced this season,” Hayward said. “Sitting there watching the playoffs, I knew I had to be better. It’s what drove me the last offseason to work as hard as I did.”
Utah did what it needed to do and won a game on the road. Now, the Jazz come back home with the momentum of an underdog and a nine-game home winning streak.
Hayward and the Jazz will look to make it 10 and a 2-1 series lead on Friday night.