Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: 7:00 PM PT
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, ESPN
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Maurice Harkless, Patrick Patterson, Ivica Zubac
Jazz: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert
Clippers: Paul George Out (Shoulder), Rodney McGruder Out (Ankle), Kawhi Leonard Out (Rest)
Jazz: Dante Exum Out (knee)
The Big Picture
The 3-1 Clippers are coming off back-to-back games where they looked faulty, rather than the well-oiled machine we saw against the Lakers and Warriors. While the Clippers ended up winning Monday’s contest against the gritty Hornets by 15 points, it never felt like a game they had a handle on. Like the game Saturday against the Suns, the Clippers shot themselves in foot consistently with questionable turnovers, lackadaisical effort on both ends at times, blown defensive assignments, and a bit of stagnation on offense. This led to a back-and-forth affair that didn’t seem wrapped up until the final two minutes. Yes, this team is new and still lacking some chemistry. Yes, the coaching staff still has to find lineups that work best. But the Clippers, right now, appear to be rusty in areas that are effort and IQ based, rather than talent based, which they have in droves. Essentially, they look to be lacking in places they took pride in last season.
This weekend’s games were a test in pretension. The first two games, they looked as though they could go 74-8. Did they underestimate b2b opponents who, on paper, are way below them talent-wise? It sure looked like it. The Clippers could do their fans, and themselves, a huge favor by going into a hostile Vivint Smart Home Arena in Utah and getting a resounding win. Do I expect this? I never expect a win in Utah. Place is tough. Do I expect Doc and company to right the ship as far as defense and effort? Yes. Let’s hope it translates into a win tonight.
The Utah Jazz have owned the Clippers over the past two seasons. They always play the right way, are well coached, have star talent at multiple positions, shoot the three at a high level (against the Clippers at least) and play D. Star guard Donovan Mitchell always cooks against LA, Mike Conley has been a notorious thorn in the Clippers side for nearly a decade, Bojan Bogdanovic had 30 against LA last year, Joe Ingles seems to love to let Doc know he messed up by not keeping him on the team in 2014, and Gobert is taller than anyone on the Clips roster and always makes life hard. They upgraded their bench this offseason, adding veterans like Ed Davis, Jeff Green, and Emmanuel Mudiay to round out a team that will be competing for a top seed in the extremely tough Western Conference. They are well balanced and always a tough out at home. Pray for the boys tonight.
Conley and Ingles struggles: Utah’s prized free-agent acquisition of the summer, Mike Conley has struggled with his shot in Utah. Maybe it’s the air up there but thus far, Conley is shooting 20% from the field through four games and 15% from three. Against Phoenix Monday night, he was 0-for-7 with 1 point on the night. You guessed it, the Jazz still won. Because of course they did. Joe Ingles is dealing with some of the same problems with inefficiency, as he is only shooting 33% from the field and hasn’t yet eclipsed double digit points. Maybe it’s his move to the bench, maybe it’s just #smallsamplesizetheatre. However, you know that I just jinxed the hell out of the Clippers and they’ll both go off for 20 now tonight.
Kawhi Stockton: Prior to this season, the only true “flaw” in Kawhi’s game was his vision. He could pass sure, but most of his assisting came from swings or easy dump-offs. Through four games, Kawhi is averaging 7.5 assists per game, good for 10th in the league. In a pick-and-roll heavy offense with the starters, Kawhi is thriving — finding guys like Zu on the roll and showing an innate ability to be able to find kicks to guys like Landry Shamet and Patrick Patterson on the perimeter when the D collapses on his drives. Its awesome to watch thus far and a welcomed addition to his game. If he can keep this up, he will be a bonafide MVP candidate, despite taking tonight off in the first of (maybe?) many expected “load management” games
Getting Landry involved early: After a 1-for-6 shooting effort against the Suns, a game in which Shamet was mostly invisible despite playing 36 minutes, the coaching staff got Landry involved early to the tune of four first-quarter threes. This is the exact right offensive gameplan to run at the beginning of the game, getting easy three’s to open the game up and raise the confidence up of a player that’s still only 22. Also fun fact, Shamet is leading the Clippers in minutes thus far at 32.8.
Kawhi and Zu are eating defensively: When Kawhi and Zubac are on the floor together, they hold a 20.9 net rating and a defensive rating of 93.9. Not to be outdone, they also have an offensive rating of 114.8. I think every Clipper fan were saying to themselves, Monday night, “Why isn’t Zu in the game right now” in the second half when Trezz was struggling defensively. Yes, Harrell still had 19 points, but his defense this year….not great.
Return for the game thread tonight, and comment on the upcoming Clips-Jazz game below!