SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. — For the first time since the pandemic began, Vivint Arena invited a full capacity of spectators inside as the No. 1 Utah Jazz hosted the No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers in the first game of the second-round series. Lest one thinks usually-coveted spectatorship is back to normal though, tickets for tonight were still available at noon today. That said, by tip-off, every seat was filled.
Never before was a just-happy-to-be-here crowd more content to wait out the 24 min delayed tip-off after the 76ers slowly beat the Hawks 118 to 102.
The first quarter was a bit of a mixed bag with the Jazz leading at first and the Clippers ending up on top at 25 to 18 which did not hamstring the boisterous, in-person crowd from collectively and individually cheering its pent-up energy out, way out. LA was up 60 -47 at the half, however, although the score didn’t directly reflect it at first, three minutes into the third, Mitchell started to flip the script on the rhythm of the game leading the Jazz to a tie at the end of the third quarter. The final score gave Utah the ‘W” at 112 to 109.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said to TNT’s Rebecca Haarlow during the 3rd quarter break on the sidelines, “We made some mistakes early in the game but now we’re getting a little bit lucky.”
Utah’s Mike Conley sat out the whole game with a ‘mild’ hamstring injury leaving things in the capable hands of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Australian-born, 34-year-old, forward guard, Joe Ingles. Regarding winning the first-round playoff series in the relatively rapid five games, Ingles told the Salt Lake Tribune leading up to game-time “Well, I was born in 1987, so a few extra days for me is extremely nice.”
Pole to pole, Utah remained the top-tiered team throughout the NBA regular season.
Not for nothing but the home team, meaning the sitting-at-home team or fans, may have been the real winners as they were reminded of the bigger picture of the moment via adverts dripping with sports puns about comebacks entertainingly tailor-made for said COVID moment. They lifted the Jazz Nation, the Clippers Organization, the NBA, the advertisers, and vast swaths of the viewing country right out of that 15-month funk, if just for a couple of hours.
The Jazz are going to have to keep a trained eye on ‘PG-13′ or Paul George of the Clipper who wears number 13 through this series as he had a strong night, as expected. You don’t need to be a round ball sage to follow along in the game when the highly expressive body language of the Clippers’ DeMarcus Cousins is on the court.
LA came back from being down 3-2 in their first-round to dispatch the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7. In 2017, the Jazz sent the Clippers packing in seven games in the first round.
Inspired marketing coupled with simply and genuinely making the world a better place has brought the Jazz up to gifting 59 nope, make that the big six oh, as the number of four-year college scholarships the Utah Jazz organization is donating this season, where a win equals an education.
Never having played in a Western Conference Finals, the Utah Jazz is ready, willing, and, as countless Utahn’s hope, able to take it there. Tonight, in the house that Karl Malone built, a masked Karl Malone was in the house.
Game 2 will be in SLC on ESPN at 8:00 pm (MST).