It didn’t look like his first time in the playoffs. He was amazing, managing the game and getting everybody in position. He did a great job. —Rodney Hood, on Quin Snyder
LOS ANGELES — Quin Snyder wants to make one thing clear.
“I don’t think this is about me,” he was saying, “in any way, shape or form.”
Which, of course, no one this side of Bhutan believes. But if it’s not about him, who’s it about, the King of Bhutan?
It wouldn’t be about Snyder. Nor would it be about the Jazz pulling off an improbable road win in the playoffs. He was just hanging out. That sort of deference might elicit an eye-roll, but he earned the right. For the first time since 2010, the Jazz matter in May.
But remember, it had nothing to do with Snyder. He’s just the custodian. It wasn’t him who adjusted on the fly all season. It wasn’t him who arranged the pieces last fall, rearranged them, swept them off the table, and taped them back. Nor was it Snyder who yo-yoed Derrick Favors, Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert in and out throughout the series — especially in the Jazz’s Game 7 win over the Clippers on Sunday.
He wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity as Gobert picked up his third, then fourth fouls on Sunday, and yet the Jazz failed to buckle. Nor was it Snyder who coolly shuffled players, getting them rest but not letting them get either too cold or too fatigued down the stretch.
By the time Gobert fouled out — one point, four rebounds — the outcome was obvious.
Note to the authorities: It definitely wasn’t Snyder who pulled the switch that darkened L.A.
“It didn’t look like his first time in the playoffs,” Rodney Hood said. “He was amazing, managing the game and getting everybody in position. He did a great job.”
Coaches, as a group, aren’t prone to publicly taking credit for their successes. There’s a good reason. They don’t take a single shot or make a solitary pass. Still, it’s been hard to watch the lineup chaos that has surrounded the Jazz this year and not sense a meltdown coming.
Because of injury and illness, Snyder’s starting lineups have changed like a stoplight. Through it all, he has maintained he had little or nothing to do with the success. But now they’re moving on to play Golden State, the league’s best team, in the second round. It’s unlikely the Jazz will win that series, but their coach has both MBA and law degrees from Duke.
He’ll think of something.
With Gobert hampered by a sprained ankle, sustained on Friday, the Jazz went into Game 7 pretending it was business as usual. Wait. An injured player is business as usual.
“I haven’t coached in a Game 7, but it’s basketball,” Snyder said.
The first quarter confirmed everything the coaches had been saying all along: all bets are off. Both teams had won twice on the road, raising havoc with conventional wisdom about home-court advantage.
“It’s a little strange,” Snyder said.
Also strange was that it wasn’t Gobert’s sore ankle, but his own foul problems that sent him to the bench for all but 13 minutes. He drew his third foul two minutes into the second quarter.
The Jazz made do with what they had, which was what they’ve always had, i.e. a versatile lineup and a deep bench. Favors, unremarkable in the last game, got 10 of his 17 points in the first half, rushing in when Gobert exited.
As usual, a lot of other players showed up, too, which has been Snyder’s M.O. since the start. Diaw, long on both style and experience, scored eight badly needed points in the third quarter. Hood had 11 points, Joe Johnson 10. Gordon Hayward led with 26. Though the Clippers cut a 21-point deficit to eight, that was it. Chris Paul twisted an ankle, J.J. Redick remained cold, and the Clippers sank under the weight of expectation. Again.
Then there’s Snyder, who in his third season as an NBA head coach, has made resurrecting a team look easy — on the outside.
“Easy?” chuckled Diaw. “Tell me if it looks easy. Yeah, this is hard.”
Taking the credit is even harder.