You’ve got to be mentally tough to win there. They have a lot of fans there that are complete homers. It’s going to be loud. I’m sure it’s going to be exciting, but we’ve got to be ready. —Clippers guard Chris Paul
SALT LAKE CITY — Chris Paul reiterated over the weekend the cliché that it’s not truly a playoff series until someone wins on the road.
That happened Saturday when Joe Johnson hit that pretty floater at the buzzer to give the Jazz a 97-95 Game 1 road victory.
It also wouldn’t be a full-fledged playoff series without some juicy controversy, right?
Thanks to a CP3 interview after Game 2, this series now has that — well, depending on your interpretation of juicy controversy, among other words.
Whether it’s actually deserving of Jazz fans’ scorn is is an entirely different question, but Paul made some comments in his walk-off interview with TNT that didn’t sit well with some Utah faithful.
Right after Paul and his Clippers evened this first-round series at 1-1 with a 99-91 win late Tuesday night, a TNT sideline reporter asked the L.A. superstar what it will take for his team to win in Utah where Games 3 (Friday) and 4 (Sunday) will take place.
Vivint Arena is certain to be rocking with the return of the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and with the Jazz having an excellent opportunity to advance to the second round.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough to win there. They have a lot of fans there that are complete homers,” Paul said of Utah. “It’s going to be loud. I’m sure it’s going to be exciting, but we’ve got to be ready.”
Some fans took exception of Paul’s use of the phrase “complete homers.” The word homer often carries a negative connotation.
Others thought Paul was complimentary of the Jazz crowd, which gained a reputation during the Stockton and Malone era for being a rabid, loud and proud crowd.
A few might have gotten hungry for doughnuts thinking of their favorite pastry-craving Simpsons character.
He didn’t like being asked in his postgame interview on the podium if he meant “something maybe less savory,” as a reporter put it.
“Tell me what you took it as, if you're that reaching,” Paul fired back at the reporter. “If you're reaching that much, you tell me what you took it as.”
The media member said it seemed like a compliment.
“Exactly. That means they like their team. Why even try that, though?” a clearly annoyed Paul responded. “I've said that before, they're homers, and I say when you go play there, you don't really see, like, opposing teams' jerseys. Know what I mean? Like, they support their team, which is good. Know what I mean? How can you take that in another way?”
Paul was then told that some Jazz fans seemed to be upset about his choice of words.
“When I go there, I don't see, like, too many Clippers' jerseys,” Paul said. “Like, they really support their team, and it's always been that. Yeah, you're reaching if you're thinking that's something else. You've got to get a different hashtag. Come on, man.”
How about #fakecontroversy?
Better yet, how about #competitiveseries?
Even without Gobert, the Jazz return to Utah with home-court advantage after that scintillating Game 1 upset. It remains a challenge against a loaded and motivated Clippers squad, but the Jazz can advance to the second round simply by winning three in a row at home.
It seems like a positive omen for the Jazz that they remained competitive in Game 2 even after not being able to match the Clippers’ intensity and aggressiveness early on Tuesday while falling behind by double digits.
Without their Goliath, the Jazz were still within six points of the Clippers in the final minute and a half. That quasi-moral victory could help boost their confidence as the series shifts to Salt Lake.
“We feel like we didn’t play our best basketball,” Gordon Hayward said after a 5-of-15 shooting night, “and we still were ... we hung around and we hung around. Besides the first quarter (29-18 deficit), I felt like we did all right.”
The Jazz hoped to pull off a true shocker and get both games in L.A., but they’ll happily take what they got — a necessary road win in this best-of-seven series.
“We got the Game 1, so go home, figure out what we did wrong, be ready for Game 3,” Hayward said. “I think we’ll be excited to play in front of our home fans, for sure.”
Those complete homers do have a tendency to give the Jazz a sixth-man-like lift.
Snyder left SoCal feeling somewhat unsatisfied after his team was outmatched in the paint where the Clippers took advantage of Gobert’s absence for a 60-38 scoring advantage. That was the big difference in Game 2.
“They raised their level tonight,” Snyder said. “We didn't necessarily back down or not play, but I thought they played with an intensity and a level from the very beginning of the game that was — it was impressive, and that's who they are, and that's what we expected, and we've got to raise our level now.”
Jazz forward Boris Diaw agrees.
"We are happy that we got the split," the French big said. "So now, we are going to go home and try to defend home court."
The homers, no doubt, can't wait.