LOS ANGELES — This is how hot the Jazz are lately: Even the Curse of Los Angeles didn’t divert them.
At least for a day, they put to rest the long-held suspicion they would never be winners in Los Angeles. Following a perfectly blue day in the City of Angels, the Jazz beat a Los Angeles team in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. And they did it without emerging star Rudy Gobert.
Talk about a curse-smasher.
Joe Johnson sank a driving shot at the buzzer in the Jazz’s 97-95 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Before that, Utah had lost eight consecutive playoff games and hadn’t had a postseason win over an L.A. team since 2009. But that was the other L.A.
The Jazz haven’t faced an L.A. team since 2010. The Lakers swept them in 2010, stretching their postseason win streak to six over Utah.
Old history, says coach Quin Snyder.
“It’s been seven years since we won a (playoff) game, five years since we’ve been in there,” he said. “I don’t know how many people currently that were on that team. Just a couple. I certainly wasn’t.
“I guess what I’m saying is whatever the history is, I don’t know that that’s something we’re conscious of.”
Note to Curse: Boo!
Meanwhile, there’s the Gobert issue. Following the Jazz’s first playoff game in five years, the hex lingers, like L.A. smog and traffic. It only took 13 seconds to appear.
Gobert left with a sprained knee, sustained on a freak play. It went like this: introductions, center-jump, gasp. Gobert planted for a screen on the game’s first possession and almost immediately crumpled in pain. He crawled a few inches, tried to get up, then limped off with teammates propping him up.
The Hotel Roosevelt allegedly is haunted by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, and the Jazz, well, they’re hearing bumps in the night.
All those years of bad luck — and Kobe Bryant — in L.A. suddenly seemed a ways removed.
In a way, the injury to Gobert was business as usual for the Jazz. Though he only missed one game all year, the Jazz had the sixth-most injury absences in the league. Their preferred starting line-up was together just 13 of 82 games.
Snyder didn’t blink. He’s been shorthanded since October.
Even after Gobert left, the Jazz got 21 points from Johnson off the bench.
When Johnson’s buzzer-beater went in, it was obvious that, curse or no curse, the Jazz aren’t an easy opponent anymore.
While no current Jazz players were on the team when the Jazz last met an L.A. team in the playoffs, it’s still a sore point with Utah fans. For a while, the Lakers blocked every attempt the Jazz made at advancement. They beat the Jazz in the second round in 2008 in six games. They beat them 4-1 in the first round of 2009. By 2010, it was a conditioned response. The Lakers passed the Jazz like a cop car on the 405.
But that was the other L.A. This time it’s the oft-ignored Clippers that are the Jazz’s problem. The last time the Jazz met the Clippers in the postseason, though, was 1997.
Back then people called them the “Paper Clips.”
“I remember back in the days of the Lakers when the Clippers didn’t get that big a lift from the fans and supporters around, but that’s changed a lot,” said Jazz forward Boris Diaw.
They had the flash (Laker Girls, Jack Nicholson), the dash (remember the “Showtime” Lakers?) and the cash — $2,750 for a courtside seat in 2016, according to Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Paschke. But things are changing quickly. The same article said tickets to a Clippers’ regular-season game can cost $2,840 (parking and food included).
The Clippers have sold out 276 consecutive games.
Yes, L.A. is superficial.
The city’s chippy kid brother has hit puberty, its voice deepening. The team only Billy Crystal could love — he’s still a regular — now has given way to a new clientele that includes Anthony Anderson, Adam Devine, Eric Stonestreet, Jason Sudekis and Olivia Wilde.
At the last regular-season game, Reece Witherspoon and Fred Savage showed up.
But while this is the sixth consecutive postseason appearance for the Clippers, it hasn’t always been smooth. They have been ousted three times in the conference semifinals and twice in the first round since 2012.
Maybe the pressure in a city of glamour got to them.
“It is very different in the playoffs than regular season,” Diaw said. “One reason is because the media is overblown, too. But, yeah, it’s part of it — part of the experience. Everything is amplified.”
How’s this for amplification: "CLIPPERS ALREADY IN DANGER OF ANOTHER QUICK EXIT.”