I expect it to be noisy with a lot of energy. It’s going to be fun, a great atmosphere for us, a home-court advantage for us and I’m excited for it. —Derrick Favors
SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz are excited for their first home playoff game in nearly five years, but they don’t want to be too excited. If that happens, they may start clanking shots off the back of the rim, according to coach Quin Snyder, because of too much adrenaline, or Joe Ingles might start trying 360 dunk shots.
When Ingles, whose nickname is Slo-Mo Joe, was asked about how excited he was to be playing at home, he said, “Hopefully not too much — I might do a 360 or something.”
But seriously, the Jazz are thrilled to be playing at home in front of the home crowd in a playoff game for the first time since May 7 of 2012 when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers at 8 p.m. at Vivint Arena.
There are a lot of differences from the last time the Jazz hosted a home playoff game in a year when the playoffs started three weeks later than usual because of the lockout that postponed the start of the season.
Only three Jazz players who played then — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks — are still with the team. The arena, which was called EnergySolutions Arena back then, is now called the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Also there is a more positive vibe this time around. Back then, the Jazz were coming off a pair of overwhelming losses in San Antonio and as a No. 8 seed, they were pretty much just happy to be there. Plus it wasn’t much of a novelty for the fans since the Jazz had participated in the playoffs in four of the previous five seasons.
In 2012, after losing those first two games in San Antonio by margins of 15 and 31 points, the Jazz went out and lost by a dozen, 102-90 and their playoff experience was over two days later with another home loss to Tim Duncan & Co.
This year, excitement and anticipation is off the charts after the Jazz shockingly won Game 1 in Los Angeles without one of their best players, Rudy Gobert, who went down with a knee injury in the opening seconds of the game.
Despite losing the second game Tuesday night, the Jazz stayed with the Clippers until the final minute before losing by eight, 99-91.
The Jazz will be without Gobert again Friday night, and who knows how many more games beyond that, but they’ll be ready to go when the tip goes up. Like the last playoff series in 2012, there will be 19,911 fans cheering on the Jazz.
“We’re excited to have an opportunity to play here at home,” said Snyder, who added that he’s also happy for the fans to have the chance to witness a playoff game. “I think it’s tremendous. It’s loud. That the biggest thing, the decibel level in the arena. Sometimes I’m not aware of it during timeouts, but after the game I can’t talk because I’m having to speak louder for the team to hear me. That’s my meter. Our guys are excited to play.”
Favors, who will be starting in Gobert’s place and probably playing up to 35 minutes at the five spot, knows what to expect, having been in the 2012 playoffs when he started a game.
“I expect it to be noisy with a lot of energy,” he said. “It’s going to be fun, a great atmosphere for us, a home-court advantage for us and I’m excited for it.”
Ingles made reference to Clippers guard Chris Paul’s comment about the Jazz fans being “homers,” saying, “I honestly didn’t know what that meant, to be honest. The only homer I know is on the Simpsons.”
But Ingles does believe the Jazz will be helped to have the fans, not many of whom will be wearing Clippers jerseys, on their side.
“It’s obviously so good to be playing here and to have the fans,” he said. “Getting too excited or too anxious can hurt as well. But I think our guys will do a good job of settling in. It’s definitely going to help. Whenever you get a chance to play at home especially in the playoffs, it’s a great thing. We’re excited to be there and hopefully they’re all as rowdy and excited as Jazz fans will get.”
After Friday’s game, the two teams will come back and play Sunday night at Vivint Arena in a game that begins at 7 p.m. Then the series heads back to Los Angeles for a Tuesday night game. If neither team has wrapped up the series by then, they'll come back for another game in Utah next Friday.