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Game Preview: Clippers vs. Jazz, A Playoff Matchup Remixed

The first round opponents come together again, both looking a little different than before.

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture:

After exiting a summer of change as one of the NBA’s premier mystery teams, the Clippers have quickly fulfilled many expectations, both good and bad. The good is evidenced by two wipeout wins over inferior opponents. Some say that the best measure of a quality team is any win over another quality team, but others have noted that blowing out bottom-feeders — a title for which the Lakers and Suns both qualify — is just as indicative of future success. No matter which school you subscribe to, there’s no debating that the Clippers ably handled the teams they’ve faced so far.

The bad is the early validation of critics’ legitimate injury concerns. Milos Teodosic is already down for an indefinite period, and he didn’t even crack the list of “Top Two Clippers Most Likely To Miss Significant Time”, which might be the worst Bleacher Report post never written. The four-man guard rotation just got a little thinner, and we’ll get a glimpse of Doc Rivers’ adjusted strategy. Will he shorten the bench or will he trust an unproven player? The Clippers’ season just shifted to a higher difficulty level.

The Antagonist:

The Utah Jazz share more in common with the Clippers than just their recent first-round playoff pairing. They too are coping with the loss of a franchise star by shifting into something a little unrecognizable. Gone is swingman Gordon Hayward and into his place — sort of — comes the luxuriantly maned Ricky Rubio.

The Jazz share another thing with the Clippers: they’re off to an impressive start of their own, notching two wins and making a close game of the other. Where their start differs from the Clippers’ is in the quality of their competition. The Jazz have faced off against three teams from the West’s meaty middle. Well, the Clippers won’t be dealing with scraps any longer.

The Basics:

The Subplots: