Clippers drop second straight preseason match to Jazz
The Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 78-104 Monday Night in Salt Lake City, Utah. Chris Paul, Brice Johnson, and Alan Anderson all sat out with injury while Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were rested per the coach's decision. The Jazz kept Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rodney Hood out of the game due to assorted minor injuries.
The Clippers started rough, fielding a lineup of second unit players to supplement full time starters JJ Redick and LRMAM. As we observed a few times last year, when Paul, Griffin, and Jordan all sit, the Clippers turn into a guard focused team centered on isolation play by Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford. Now--when fiery hot--those two can lead a team to victory over most teams in the league, and especially an injury depleted borderline playoff team. But--when cold--it creates a very inefficient offense, lacking ball movement, and creating a series of turnovers. Tonight, we experienced door number two.
After a sloppy start with 6 points in the first 6 minutes, the Clippers went down 18-34 early in the second quarter, and trailed by double-ish figures for most of the first half to finish 40-53 at halftime. A collective effort lead to Rivers and Bass scoring 8 points each in first half, with Redick 0-5 from 3-point range.
Doc Rivers reasonably chose an away game, in a difficult arena, with his core needing rest and having light injuries, to test his second unit and the end of his rotation. We've had a good reading of Griffin, Paul, and Jordan so far this season, and Rivers has seen enough to know that each is likely to finish the season top five-ish in points, assists, and rebounds, respectively, with Griffin looking particularly fresh. Presumably pleased with the results so far, Rivers is trying to determine who can be trusted as the complementary pieces.
The Clippers tried to close the gap early in 3rd quarter, but then fell behind by 20 about half way into the 3rd. They struggled to score in the second half--and not only due to a stagnant offense--Utah played a disciplined brand of basketball as directed by coach Snyder. The ability to fall back on defensive principles while playing without top offensive options like Hayward and Favors will be key to a playoff appearance by Utah this coming spring. All teams inevitably experience some degree of injury during the season, and grinding out wins during tough stretches and thinned out lineups will be important, particularly if--like the last few seasons--a western conference playoff spot comes down to a difference of two or three wins.
Down 56-78 at the end of three quarters, and only two Clippers--Austin Rivers and Brandon Bass--had more than six points. Not meaning to be a wet blanket, but consider this a glimpse of what the future has in store if Griffin and/or Paul depart this summer.
Utah held a fourth-quarter lead that varied between 20 and 30 points to secure a minor blowout, and no Clipper had a positive plus/minus rating.
The Clippers travel to Sacramento tomorrow to face the Kings at Sleep Train Arena to conclude their preseason.