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Clippers-Jazz preview: double digits beckon

The Clippers league-high active win streak has reached nine as they enter a soft stretch of schedule where the play six in a row against teams with losing records beginning tonight with Utah.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor
2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

March 13th, 2014,  6:00 PM
EnergySolutions Arena
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
18-9 East 11-16
28-11 West 11-27
28-5 Home 14-18
18-15 Road 8-25
24-14 .500+ 7-32
22-6 .500- 15-11
9-1 L10 3-7
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Trey Burke
Darren Collison SG Gordon Hayward
Matt Barnes SF Richard Jefferson
Blake Griffin PF Marvin Williams
DeAndre Jordan C Derrick Favors
Advanced Stats
98.35 (6th of 30) Pace 93.55 (27th of 30)
109.4 (2nd of 30) ORtg 100.6 (23rd of 30)
101.7 (8th of 30) DRtg 108.0 (30th of 30)
J.J. Redick (bulging disc) out
John Lucas (ankle) questionable
Jamal Crawford (calf) questionable

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 2-0):

Date Venue Final

12/28/13 Los Angeles Clippers 98, Jazz 90 Recap Box
02/01/14 Los Angeles Clippers 102, Jazz 87 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have won nine games in a row and that string includes victories over the Thunder, Rockets, Warriors and twice over the Suns. The next six games feature no such names, as the Clippers will not again face a team with a winning record until almost two weeks from now, March 27th in Dallas. The soft stretch begins with an out-and-back road game in Utah tonight to face the Jazz, tied for last place in the Western Conference. The Clippers will likely be without shooting guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford again, but Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan and company should be more than enough to handle the Jazz. Griffin has scored 67 points in his last two games, and his string of consecutive 20 point games has reached 25. Paul's shot was off against the Warriors as he began the game 1-9, but he came up big at the end, and his defense and floor leadership was fantastic throughout. There's very little reason that the Clippers shouldn't make it 10 straight tonight.

The Antagonist:

The Jazz are bad, but hey, they're nowhere close to as bad as the 76ers, which happens to be the only team that Utah has beaten in their last eight games. The good news is that Utah has been pretty good against bad teams (15-11). But given that they still have the worst record in the West, that leaves them 7-32 against teams over .500, which sadly, playing in the Western Conference, they see a lot. The combination of Utah's futility against good teams and the fact that the Clippers haven't suffered a bad loss in a while makes an upset tonight pretty unlikely. Even in the altitude of Salt Lake City, Utah's only 14-18 at home. The Jazz are led in scoring by Gordon Hayward and they have seven players who average 9.6 points or higher.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Jazz are at or near the bottom of the league in almost every key defensive metric, and are dead last in defensive efficiency. The Clippers have the second best offense in the league and have been on a tear lately. You do the math.
  • The bad old days. The Clippers have won three straight games in Salt Lake City going back to February of 2012. Before that, Utah had won 16 home games in a row and 50 out of 51 against the Clippers. I am NOT ready to go back to losing in Utah; not for a LONG time.
  • Granger. Danny Granger has 14 and 18 points in his last two games -- his season high in 29 games in Indiana this season was 16. Granger has been deadly in the first half of the last two games, but fallen off considerably in the second half each time. Is that because he's getting tired? Or is it just coincidence? Regardless, the very fact that he is still capable of doing what he's done in the first half of the last two games is great news for the Clippers. In Crawford's absence, Granger has been the go to scorer for the second unit. What's strange is that it sure seems like Indiana could use a guy like that about now.
  • The rotation. Wednesday night against the Warriors, Doc Rivers played essentially eight guys. Jared Dudley made a 15 second cameo at the end of the first half and Hedo Turkoglu played four minutes, but it was essentially the starters (which includes Darren Collison until Crawford or Redick gets back) plus Granger, Green and Big Baby Davis. I believe that we can see the outline of what Doc plans to do down the stretch and in the playoffs, with Crawford and hopefully Redick pushing Green back to the bench, and Doc playing a nine man rotation. Turkoglu may still get some spot minutes, but Griffin's minutes will increase and Granger will pick up some stretch four time as well. Dudley will be odd man out.
  • Rebounding. One problem the Clippers still need to focus on is rebounding, 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 if the Clippers fall back into bad habits.
  • 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 27-0. If they make eight or fewer, their results fall off to 19-20. With Redick and Crawford out the Clippers don't have two of their best floor stretchers, but Danny Granger has added some shooting and Willie Green has really stepped up since Crawford's injury.
  • 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 65 games for the Jazz and is third 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. Biedrins has appeared in six games this season for a total of 45 minutes.
  • Griffin. Griffin is an absolute matchup nightmare for Utah. Marvin Williams has been their starting power forward all season, but he'll get absolutely overpowered by Griffin. Derrick Favors has a better chance than most of matching up with Griffin physically, but Ty Corbin would have to go big with Favors and Enes Kanter together or DeAndre Jordan will feast on the offensive glass. The way Griffin is playing right now, it may not matter who they put on him.
  • 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 (Bullock and Williams) and Michigan (Crawford and Burke) are all on both benches tonight.
  • Get the Utah perspective at SLC Dunk.
  • Shakespearean reference:
    Sonnet VIII (8)
    Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
    Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
    Why lovest thou that which thou receivest not gladly,
    Or else receivest with pleasure thine annoy?
    If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
    By unions married, do offend thine ear,
    They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
    In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
    Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
    Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
    Resembling sire and child and happy mother
    Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
    .   Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
    .   Sings this to thee: 'thou single wilt prove none.'