Clippers vs. Jazz score, takeaways: Donovan Mitchell, Utah take Game 2 in series against Los Angeles

The Utah Jazz have successfully defended their home court in the Western Conference semifinals as they took care of the Los Angeles Clippers in crunch time to win Game 2 of their best-of-seven series. The Jazz led by as many as 21 points, but a furious second-half comeback by the Clippers fell just short as Utah walked away with the 117-111 victory.

It wasn't Kawhi Leonard or Paul George that led the way for the Clippers. No, that would be Reggie Jackson, who poured in a team-high 29 points to keep the Clippers afloat in this one. Sadly, they were no match for Donovan Mitchell, who followed up his 45-point Game 1 masterpiece with a 37-point gem in Game 2.

With the victory, the Jazz now lead this series 2-0 as it transitions to Los Angeles. The Clippers were in this position last round, though, so comebacks are hardly unfamiliar to them. They'll have to be even better to beat this stellar Jazz team, but if the Dallas series proved anything, it was that they're resilient enough for the job. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Game 2.

1. Mitchell's mastery

As I referenced after Game 1, Donovan Mitchell destroyed the Clippers by switch-hunting their worst defenders in pick-and-roll. This is a basic superstar strategy and the easiest way to exploit a switch. The Clippers tried to adjust defensively in Game 2. It just didn't work because Mitchell destroyed basically every coverage they threw at him. 

The Clippers had largely been playing small since the Dallas series in an effort to both maximize their spacing and increase switchability on defense, but after their Game 1 struggles, they went back to a big lineup with Ivica Zubac at center. Doing so forced them to play drop coverage off of pick-and-rolls because Zubac isn't quick enough to defend the perimeter. Mitchell noticed this immediately and hit Zubac for two quick pull-up 3-pointers coming off of the screens. 

When the Clippers tried to blitz him in the second half, he passed out of it for easy buckets.

There is no good answer for Mitchell anymore. This is the last level offensive players need to reach to claim superstardom, and it's the point Luka Doncic reached last round as well. There just aren't any coverages left that work against Mitchell. He's mastered how to beat all of them. All the Clippers can do at this point is pick a path and hope that either Mitchell misses, or that they can force him to pass and his teammates do. That's not going to cut it against an offense this good.

2. Did the Clippers waste their best move?

We see this at some point in almost every postseason. Some team trailing by 20 or so gets desperate and breaks out a zone defense. It works for a quarter or two and they cut the deficit down to single digits, but ultimately lose the game. Then, when they start the next game with the zone as their base, the opposing team destroys it because they got a chance to look at it on film and dissect its weaknesses. 

It's a tale as old as time, and the Clippers are headed down this path now after their Game 2 loss. They trailed by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, but the zone helped them fight their way back into the game. But it wasn't enough. They're now down 0-2 and don't have that card left to play anymore. As effective as zone defenses can be, their best trait is how rarely they are used. Teams are surprised to see zones. Once the element of surprise is gone, the defense becomes entirely beatable. That is especially true for teams like the Jazz that have loads of shooting. 

When you factor in all of the pick-and-roll coverages the Clippers tried, it's worth wondering just what adjustments Ty Lue even has left to try. He's now experimented with virtually every lineup type and coverage style his roster can produce. Nothing is working. Perhaps better execution can make the difference here, but right now, the Clippers are on life support with no obvious medicine.

3. Not doing himself any Favors

Rudy Gobert played 36 minutes in this game. The Jazz won those minutes by 14 points. When Derrick Favors replaced him, though, the formerly impregnable Jazz defense looked entirely mortal. Reggie Jackson and Paul George were far more aggressive attacking the basket, and the Clippers won those minutes by eight points. 

Favors isn't a bad defender, though he's declined since his first Jazz stint. His real crime is simply not being Rudy Gobert. Gobert's presence scares the Clippers out of driving, which makes it far easier for Utah's perimeter defenders to stick with their shooters. When Gobert leaves the floor, everything opens up. The Clippers look like, well, the Clippers again. 

Big men tend to struggle especially with playoff workloads. Utah can't simply ask Gobert to play 45 minutes. They're going to have to survive these bench minutes somehow, and Favors isn't working right now. Could the Jazz get away with playing small and sticking Bojan Bogdanovic at center? Perhaps for short stretches. The all-offense approach is viable for a team with as much shooting as the Jazz, but it's not something they'd want to try for more than a few minutes at a time. Either way, if the Clippers start shooting as well as they can, Utah is going to have to figure out some way to defend the basket when Gobert is out of the game. Typically, a series against a team this talented doesn't have a margin of error big enough to survive a minus-8 stretch from a key backup. 

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THU 10:00 P
UTA -2.5, o222.5
ESPN
UTA -2.5, O/U 222.5

Season Leaders

points
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K. Leonard 30.4 PTS, 4.4 AST, 7.7 REB
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K. Leonard 30.4 PTS, 4.4 AST, 7.7 REB
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D. Mitchell 32.3 PTS, 5.5 AST, 4.2 REB
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D. Mitchell 32.3 PTS, 5.5 AST, 4.2 REB
assists
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P. George 26.6 PTS, 5.3 AST, 8.9 REB
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P. George 26.6 PTS, 5.3 AST, 8.9 REB
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M. Conley 15.3 PTS, 7.7 AST, 3.5 REB
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M. Conley 15.3 PTS, 7.7 AST, 3.5 REB
rebounds
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P. George 26.6 PTS, 5.3 AST, 8.9 REB
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P. George 26.6 PTS, 5.3 AST, 8.9 REB
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R. Gobert 14.7 PTS, 0.8 AST, 12.3 REB
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R. Gobert 14.7 PTS, 0.8 AST, 12.3 REB
Live updates
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Rudy Gobert is headed to the line, but with a five-point lead and no timeouts for the Clippers, the Jazz still have this one in hand regardless of what happens.

June 11, 2021, 5:00 AM
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Mitchell is clearly in some pain. He made one of his free throws, but the real concern here is the rest of this series. If he's hobbled, that changes EVERYTHING.

June 11, 2021, 4:58 AM
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Donovan Mitchell is on the ground in some pain here. If this is his right ankle, the Jazz are in trouble even with this 2-0 lead.

June 11, 2021, 4:56 AM
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Mitchell! It's back up to 7!

June 11, 2021, 4:55 AM
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Count it! Paul George hits the layup and gets the whistle! He can cut it to five here.

June 11, 2021, 4:54 AM
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Easy dunk for Jackson, but the Clippers are still down by eight.

June 11, 2021, 4:53 AM
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Jazz win the jump ball. They're up 10 with three minutes left. It looks like they've got this thing.

June 11, 2021, 4:52 AM
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The Jazz have four players that have made at least 50% of their 3's on four or more attempts. It's basically impossible to lose when that happens.

June 11, 2021, 4:50 AM
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Kawhi is gonna regret that missed bunny when he sees that on film tomorrow. That's a five-point swing as Ingles nails the 3.

June 11, 2021, 4:48 AM
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@utahjazz via Twitter
June 11, 2021, 4:48 AM
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O'Neale for 3! Jazz by seven!

June 11, 2021, 4:46 AM
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The Clippers have gone cold at the worst possible time.

June 11, 2021, 4:46 AM
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Gobert and-one can push the lead back up to four. Huge dunk there. If the Clippers are gonna play small, Gobert has to be able to punish them as a roller.

June 11, 2021, 4:45 AM
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Kawhi with ANOTHER steal! His off-ball defense in this quarter has been incredible. He's been in multiple places at once.

June 11, 2021, 4:44 AM
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Bogdanovic again! Jazz back on top by three! I'm using a lot of exclamation points in this live blog but if you're watching this thing, you know they're warranted.

June 11, 2021, 4:41 AM
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Bojan ties it up! Off the top of the backboard!

June 11, 2021, 4:40 AM
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@LAClippers via Twitter
June 11, 2021, 4:36 AM
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JACKSON AGAIN! CLIPPERS BY TWO! IT'S THEIR FIRST LEAD OF THE NIGHT!

June 11, 2021, 4:36 AM
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Jackson for 3! One-point game!

June 11, 2021, 4:36 AM
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The dunk is the highlight, but oh my god that steal by Kawhi Leonard. My goodness. That's some Darrelle Revis stuff right there.

June 11, 2021, 4:35 AM
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@LAClippers via Twitter
June 11, 2021, 4:35 AM
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Gobert gives the Jazz some breathing room on that dunk. It's only his third shot of the night, but he also has 15 rebounds and three blocks.

June 11, 2021, 4:34 AM
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Timeout Jazz after Paul George lays it in to cut the lead down to two.

June 11, 2021, 4:29 AM
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