Clippers-Jazz preview: Forget the Spurs

Stephen Dunn

The Clippers were demolished by the Spurs in their last game, but they need to put that behind them tonight when they face Utah. A win will give them the season series sweep against the Jazz for the first time in 34 years.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season
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39-18

31-24
February 23rd, 2013, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Buy Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jamaal Tinsley
Chauncey Billups 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
91.6 (17th of 30) Pace 91.3 (19th of 30)
109.2 (7th of 30) ORtg 107.0 (9th of 30)
102.5 (6th of 30) DRtg 107.1 (22nd of 30)
Injuries
Trey Thompkins (knee) out
Raja Bell (whiny baby) out


Mo Williams (thumb surgery) out

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are coming off an absolutely terrible performance against the Spurs, by far their most lopsided home loss of the season. Maybe it was due to a lack of game sharpness after a long layoff for the All Star break, but regardless let's hope they can put that game behind them. Chris Paul in particular was dreadful against the Spurs, scoring just four points and handing out three assists while turning the ball over three times. During the four game winning streak that directly preceded the break Paul had been magnificent -- it was probably his best four game stretch of the season, even in limited minutes. The Clippers clearly are not at their best when Paul is having an off night. A win tonight would give the Clippers their first season series sweep over the Jazz in 34 years, and the first EVER sweep since moving to Los Angeles. It would also make six wins in a row over Utah stretching back to last season, the second longest winning streak against the Jazz in franchise history.

The Antagonist:

Everyone expected Utah to make a trade this season, but the deadline came and went without a single deal involving the Jazz. Which will make for a very interesting off-season in Salt Lake City, since starting bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and starting guards Mo Williams and Randy Foye are all going to be free agents. It makes for an interesting situation now as well, with the Jazz starting a bunch of veterans who may or may not figure into their future, while bringing all the youngsters who probably are their future off the bench. It might be easier to reconcile the situation if the team weren't winning -- if they were out of the playoff race, the would probably focus on the youth movement. But hanging on to the seventh spot in the West, seven games over .500 for the first time this season, Utah is playing well and looking like a playoff team. Jefferson and Millsap lead the Jazz in scoring, which will make it all the more interesting to see what they do with those guys this summer.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. Despite being seven games over .500, the Jazz have actually given up more points than they've scored this season. That means that either they're getting blown out in their losses, or they're winning a disproportionate number of close games, or a little bit of both.
  • Last meeting. The Clippers played the Jazz back-to-back in the last two games of December. It was the conclusion of L.A.'s perfect month, and the last two wins in the 17 game winning streak. The Clippers may be 3-0 against Utah this season, but none of the games have been particularly easy, and I don't expect this one to be either.
  • Billups. Chauncey Billups has only played nine games for the Clippers this season. In the last two games before the All Star break he was fantastic, causing me to get a little too excited about his potential contribution to the team perhaps. Thursday night he was invisible, going 0-2 in 17 minutes. Is Billups the Clippers X factor this season? Or is he a non-factor? We don't know yet.
  • Home/Road. Utah has one of the more pronounced home court advantages in the league. They are 21-6 at home, but just 10-18 on the road. They are 12-5 in their last 17 games, a run that has solidified their playoff standing. However, 12 if those games, and 10 of the wins, were at home.
  • The sweep. The Los Angeles Clippers have never swept the Utah Jazz. The San Diego Clippers never swept the Utah Jazz either. You have to go back to 1978-79, when the Jazz were still in New Orleans, to find a season series sweep for the Clippers over the Jazz. That was the Clipper franchise's first season in California and the Jazz franchise's last season in Utah. The Buffalo Braves used to dominate the New Orleans Jazz (who never made it in New Orleans in large part because they were terrible), but that was a long time ago.
  • Old nemeses. Despite the bad loss Thursday night, it's still remarkable to realize that the Clippers as of this moment are 8-1 against the Lakers, Spurs and Jazz. Those are probably the three most successful Western Conference franchises of the last two decades, and they have absolutely tormented the Clippers over the years. A sweep of the Jazz would be quite an accomplishment given the history of the two teams.
  • Three point shooting. The Jazz are near the bottom of the league, ranked number 25, in three pointers attempted, though they do shoot a bit better than the league average from deep. Former Clipper Randy Foye is having a career year from beyond the arc shooting .424, and Gordon Hayward is a legitimate threat, but no one else on the team is likely to shoot threes except when wide open or late in a shoot clock.
  • Griffin. Blake Griffin is averaging a little less than 20 points and a little more than 10 rebounds in the three games against Utah this season. He's shooting .686 from the field against the Jazz. Millsap is way too small to defend him and Jefferson doesn't have much chance either. Derrick Favors is the player best equipped to check Griffin, but playing limited minutes with the second unit, he hasn't been matched up with Griffin very much this season.
  • Mo Williams. Former Clipper Mo Williams has been out of the Utah lineup for two months and will be out until mid-March it seems. He eventually had to have surgery on his damaged thumb. The Jazz have weathered his absence surprisingly well when you consider that Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson are their point guards. Utah was 14-14 when Williams went out of the lineup. They've gone 17-10 without him.
  • 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:

    Daddy Wasn't There -- Ming Tea

    When I was first baptized
    When I was criticized
    When I was ostracized
    When I was Jazzercised
    Sticky kidney pies
    When I was modernized
    When I was circumcised
    Daddy wasn't there to take me to the fair
    To change my underwear
    Daddy wasn't there

    If you're unfamiliar with Ming Tea, don't feel bad. Ming Tea exists as a band only for the Austin Powers movies. One of my favorite parts of the first Austin Powers movie was the interstitial shots of go-go dancers, a la the old Laugh-In TV show, and those also featured shots of the band, which then performed their song BBC in the final credits. Sharp-eyed music aficionados may have recognized Susanna Hofs of the Bangles playing lead guitar for Ming Tea -- turns out Hofs is married to Jay Roach, the director of the Powers trilogy. Daddy Wasn't There was part of the back story of the third Powers movie. It isn't as good a song as BBC (which frankly is pretty damn cool) but it's still a fun and funky spoof of 60s Brit-pop.
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