The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 1-0):
|12/28/13||Los Angeles||Clippers 98, Jazz 90||Recap||Box|
The Big Picture:
Since Chris Paul separated his shoulder, the Clippers have lost four games while winning ten. The four losses included away games against the Spurs, Pacers and Thursday night against the Warriors -- all three of those games coming on the second game of a back-to-back. So in all of those cases, the odds were pretty heavily against the Clippers. The only other loss, the only one that really should have and could have been a win, came in Charlotte when the Clippers really just couldn't make shots. So since Paul's injury, the Clippers have done a very good job of taking care of business in the games they were supposed to win. At home against Utah definitely falls into the 'supposed to win' category. Hopefully the Clippers were just tired on Thursday -- that's certainly how they played. They need to come out with more energy and focus, and they need to play much better defense, but all of those things should be better at home with a day's rest.
When these two teams met just after Christmas, the Jazz were 9-23. A little over a month later, they're 16-30, leaving them 7-7 in the interim. Considering what the Jazz have been through and the talent they lost over the summer, that qualifies as something akin to a miracle, or at least a very, very hot streak. The team has been much better in general since rookie point guard Trey Burke entered the lineup after missing the start of the season (with a hand injury suffered in a pre-season game against the Clippers, as it happens). The Jazz were expected to battle for last place in the West and looked to be stuck there for the season just a few weeks ago, but they've recently passed both the Kings and the Lakers in the standings so they are not the cellar dwellers anymore. Gordon Hayward leads the team in scoring at 17 a game, though life as a first option has caused his shooting percentages to plummet. The Jazz have seven different players averaging over nine points per game -- so they don't really have a go to scorer, but they do have several guys who can hurt you. Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams each missed last night's game against the Warriors, but neither has a serious injury and I expect them to play tonight. Jeremy Evans on the other hand fell hard in last night's game and has a bruised tailbone that did not allow him to return; I would be surprised if he played against the Clippers.
- Comparison of key metrics. The Jazz have the worst defense in the league, and there are some bad ones out there. The Clippers have been lighting teams up lately, so expect them some point some points up tonight.
- Home record. The Clippers have now played a league-high 27 road games. The good news is that they have the best home record in the Western Conference at 19-3, so those 19 remaining home games are looking pretty good on the future schedule right now.
- Rebounding. The Clippers have developed a serious rebounding problem in recent weeks, particularly on their own defensive glass, and Favors and Kanter like to go after offensive rebounds. It's hard to imagine how Utah can have enough to pull this out unless they get a whole lot of extra shots after offensive rebounds, which is a distinct possibility the way the Clippers have been playing.
- Nine threes. Made three pointers remains an uncanny predictor of success for the Clippers this season. When they make at least nine, they are a perfect 21-0. If they make eight or fewer, their results fall off the table to 12-16. As it happens, the Clippers had one of their worst three point shooting nights of the season in the first meeting with Utah, making just 3-14 from deep, but still managed the win.
- Threesomes. Strangely, the Clippers and Warriors have been playing the same teams lately. The Warriors played the Wizards on Tuesday, the Clippers on Thursday and the Jazz on Friday. The Clippers played the Wizards on Wednesday, the Warriors on Thursday and the Jazz on Saturday. The Warriors caught the Clippers on a back-to-back, but the Clippers are catching the Jazz on a back-to-back after also getting the Wizards on a back-to-back. The Warriors finished 2-1 in the stretch -- the Clippers can match that with a win over the Jazz.
- Last season. The Clippers swept the Jazz last season, including three wins in L.A.'s perfect month of December. The Jazz used to dominate this series, especially in the state of Utah. But as it happens, the Clippers have now won seven in a row -- and have yet to lose to Utah in the Chris Paul era, although they'll be playing them without their star point guard.
- Jefferson. Both of the guys whom the Jazz got from the Warriors are fascinating to me. Utah facilitated the sign-and-trade that sent Andre Iguodala to Golden State because they had the cap room to do it and because the Warriors gave them a whole bunch of first round picks. Jefferson and Biedrins are making $20M between them, and combined with Marvin Williams, that's half of Utah's payroll all expiring this season. But strangely, Jefferson has started all 46 games for the Jazz and is fourth on the team in minutes played -- despite the fact that at 33 he doesn't figure into their long term plans in any way. He's not even playing that well, though he is killing it from beyond the arc. It's hard to remember at this point, but Jefferson was at one point the starting small forward in the NBA Finals and has twice averaged 22 points per game for a season.
- Biedrins. Biedrins on the other hand is just plain fascinating. He's in the sixth and final year of a $54M contract the Warriors gave him in 2008 when he was 22 and their starting center. He got hurt in the second year of that deal and then -- forgot how to play basketball or something. He posted PERs of 19 in back-to-back seasons before and after his new contract, but has seen his numbers and his minutes fall off the table since 2009. The weirdest thing of all is that somewhere along the way he went from a bad free throw shooter -- 53% in his first five seasons in the NBA -- to an impossibly bad free throw shooter. His confidence is so far gone that he basically is no longer of any use on the court, and it seems like a lot of it is directly tied to his foul shooting. He made 119 free throws in 08-09 -- he has made 21 in five seasons and 198 games since. That's just astounding.
- Griffin. Griffin is an absolute matchup nightmare for Utah. Marvin Williams has been their starting power forward this season, but he'll get absolutely overpowered by Griffin. Wiliams missed last night's game, so Utah may be forced to go to Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors in the starting lineup, which will help them counter Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the glass at the very least. Kanter has been very disappointing this season and Jeremy Evans is rail thin and they really don't have many other options, so it will be interesting to see what Utah does. The also have the impossibly long but also impossibly frail French rookie, Rudy Gobert, who's been getting a bit more burn lately.
- The 2005 Draft. It's impossible to see Marvin Williams and not think about the 2005 draft, in which Atlanta, in desperate need of a point guard and holding the second overall pick, chose Marvin Williams ahead of both Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Utah picked third and chose DWill, leaving CP3 for New Orleans. And who was drafted first overall that year? The LAC's newest enemy number one, Andrew Bogut.
- The 2010 Draft. Long time readers will recall that I liked Hayward a lot in the 2010 draft and wanted the Clippers, in need of a small forward at the time, to pick him. Instead the Clippers selected Al-Farouq Aminu with the eighth pick, Hayward went to Utah at nine and Paul George was ten. After three plus seasons, it's obvious that the order for those three would have been reversed -- with George already an All Star and pushing his way into MVP territory. Meanwhile, Hayward is a nice player -- but clearly not suited to being a first option as the Jazz have learned this season.
- Connections. Marvin Williams and Willie Green were teammates in Atlanta. Matt Barnes and Earl Watson were teammates at UCLA for three years. Matt Barnes was teammates with Biedrins on the Warriors. Players from UCLA (Hollins, Collison, Barnes and Watson), North Carolina (Jamison, Bullock and Williams) and Michigan (Crawford and Burke) are all pitted against each other tonight.
- Get the Utah perspective at SLC Dunk.
- Shakespearean reference:
Merchant of Venice -- Act V, Scene 1 -- Lorenzo
The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn'd to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.