Clippers-Jazz preview: The elusive perfect month

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paul came up big against the Jazz on Friday. With their perfect December on the line, will he have to carry the Clippers to victory again tonight?

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season
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vs
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24-6

15-16
December 30th, 2012, 6:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Buy Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jamaal Tinsley
Willie Green SG Randy Foye
Caron Butler SF Marvin Williams
Blake Griffin PF Paul Millsap
DeAndre Jordan C Al Jefferson
Advanced Stats through games of Dec. 29
91.8 (15th of 30) Pace 91.4 (19th of 30)
110.9 (4th of 30) ORtg 106.8 (9th of 30)
100.0 (3rd of 30) DRtg 107.6 (24th of 30)
Injuries
Chauncey Billups (ankle) out
Raja Bell (whiny baby) out
Grant Hill (knee) out
Mo Williams (thumb) out
Trey Thompkins (knee) out

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

It was just Friday night when these two teams met in Salt Lake City in a thrilling game in which the Clippers overcame a 19 point third quarter deficit to win by two in the final seconds. The Clippers are now 2-0 against the Jazz this season -- by a combined margin of victory of just three points. Considering that the Clippers average margin of victory on the season is double digits, that's a pretty commendable showing by the Jazz. However, both those games were in Utah, where the Jazz have one of the best home court advantages in the league. By contrast, they are just 6-12 on the road and the Clippers are 14-3 at home this season. A win tonight would not only be the Clippers 17th in a row, it would also make them 16-0 in December in their final game of the month. The Clippers have relied on a stingy defense and a productive bench this season, but neither of those things worked for them on Friday when they gave up 114 points and allowed Utah's bench to outplay them. Look for both of those things to be better this time around.

The Antagonist:

Utah had a lot of things going in their favor on Friday. The Clippers were on the road and playing the second game of a back-to-back, not to mention the fact that former Clipper Randy Foye was unconscious shooting the ball (a season high 28 points on just 13 shots). They won't have all of those things going for them this time. It's interesting to note that the Utah bench, with Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, was better than their starters on Friday, but still coach Ty Corbin insisted on playing starting bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap the lion's share of the minutes. Looking at the plus/minus numbers in that game, it's a good thing for the Clippers that he did. The simple fact is that Utah has not been nearly as good a team on the road this season as they have been at home, but after a heartbreaking loss in a game they feel they should have won, you can rest assured that they remain hyper-motivated to break the Clippers winning streak. Mo Williams will likely miss the game again tonight, which will continue to limit the Jazz. Jamal Tinsley and Earl Watson played good defense on Friday, but they only scored five points total and had more turnovers (six) than assists (five) between them.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. Friday night's dreadful defensive performance by the Clippers added seven tenths of a point to the defensive rating all by itself. They'll need to do better tonight. Most disconcerting were the run outs -- at least twice they allowed Hayward to beat them down court after a free throw. There's really no excuse for that.
  • Not much more to say. We just played these guys and I just wrote a preview about them. It turns out, I'm not going to have that much more to say about them, so this will probably be a pretty short preview.
  • The Perfect Month. Only twice before in NBA history has a team gone undefeated in an entire month consisting of 16 games -- the 71-72 Lakers went 16-0 in December 1971 and the 96-97 Spurs did the same in March 1997. By my count there have been six other perfect months in the past 60 years, not counting Octobers and Marches/Aprils when fewer games are played, and two of those six were in February, where the shorter month and the All Star break eat into the schedule. The most recent perfect month was turned in by the 07-08 Rockets, who went 13-0 in February 2008. The most recent non-February perfect month was that 97 Spurs team, 16 seasons ago.
  • Best record. Oklahoma City crushed the Rockets in Houston on Saturday night to keep the pressure on the Clippers. The Thunder sit a half game back and a Clippers loss tonight would move OKC into first place overall in the NBA, percentage points ahead of L.A.
  • January is tougher. The Clippers would be wise to go ahead and close out their perfect December, because January is much tougher, right from the start. The new year begins with four games in five days, against the Nuggets, Warriors, Lakers and Warriors.
  • Connections. Mo Williams and Randy Foye were Clippers just last season, and both spent plenty of time in the starting lineup during their respective stays in L.A. Marvin Williams and Willie Green were teammates in Atlanta last season. Marvin Williams will long be remembered as the guy Atlanta drafted with the second pick in the 2005 draft when they could have had Chris Paul. While we're on that subject, the Clippers could have drafted Gordon Hayward in 2010 when they picked Al-Farouq Aminu, but if they'd done so then Hayward would probably be in New Orleans now. Matt Barnes and Earl Watson were teammates at UCLA for three years. Chauncey Billups and Alec Burks both attended Colorado and may be the best pros to have played for the Buffaloes.
  • Get the Utah perspective at SLC Dunk.
  • Lyrical reference:

    All That Jazz -- Echo and the Bunnymen

    Where the hell have you been
    We've been waiting with our best suits on
    Hair slicked back and all that jazz
    Rolling down the Union Jack
    See you at the barricades babe
    See you when the lights go low, Joe
    Hear you when the wheels turn round
    Someday when the sky turns black

    Echo and the Bunnymen anyone? Or am I too far out on a limb this time?
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