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Clippers vs. Jazz Preview and Game Thread: Battle Between Western Conference Powers

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The Clippers take on the Jazz in their first game since Christmas and the big win against the Lakers - let’s see if the momentum carries over against a tough Jazz squad.

Utah Jazz v LA Clippers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Information

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 7:30 PM PT

How to Watch/Listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

Jazz: Donovan Mitchell – Royce O’Neal – Joe InglesBojan BogdanovicRudy Gobert

Clippers: Patrick BeverleyKawhi LeonardPaul GeorgeMoe HarklessIvica Zubac

Injuries

Jazz: Mike Conley Out (Hamstring),

Clippers: None

The Big Picture

The Clippers are coming off maybe their biggest win of the season thus far, a comeback victory over the Lakers on Christmas Day. Kawhi Leonard has looked increasingly sharp this December, scorching the nets while playing excellent defense. Meanwhile, the Clippers are finally healthy and deploying a full rotation, which has led to some difficult decisions for Doc Rivers regarding playing time. Still, having too many options is always better than too few, and mistakes like not playing JaMychal Green in the first half of games should be short-lived. Essentially, the Clippers are in pretty good shape.

The Antagonist

All is not well with the Jazz, even though they sit comfortably at 6th in the Western Conference. Their much-prized defense has fallen off this season, as they’re barely inside the top 10 on that end after being near the top of the NBA every year since the rise of Rudy Gobert. Mike Conley, their purported savior at point guard, has been awful, and is now injured. Jeff Green, one of their offseason signings that received some acclaim, has been released, while longtime prospect Dante Exum was traded away for Jordan Clarkson last week. The Jazz are quite good, certainly, and have the talent to be one of the better teams in the NBA, but they need Conley to get right, and his time away from the team won’t help with building chemistry. They’re a tough out every night, but haven’t quite lived up to expectations.

Notes

First Trade of the Season: The Jazz were involved in the first trade of the 2020 NBA season last week when they sent Dante Exum and two second round picks to the Cavs for Jordan Clarkson. While Exum is not good and extremely injury-prone, Clarkson is almost certainly not a true difference maker due to his shoddy defense and lack of playmaking. He should help give the Jazz bench some offensive juice, sure, but he’s also someone a team like the Clippers can target on the other end of the court. More importantly, hopefully the completion of one trade gets the juices stirring on the trade market – the NBA is more fun when deals are going down.

Joe Ingles Scorching: After a frigid start to the season, Joe Ingles has surged in December, shooting over 53% from both the field and from deep. When Ingles is cooking from deep the Jazz are a different team and he’s been extremely hot lately. Ingles is no longer coming off the bench, which has seemingly helped him get in a rhythm, and he will be called upon for big minutes tonight to defend Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Kawhi Leonard Hot: Ingles is not the only wing coming into this game on a hot streak; Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard has been on a tear of his own. In December, Kawhi has averaged 26.8/8.1/4.5 on a ridiculous 65.2% TS and has simply looked more comfortable on the court. He’s started dunking a lot more and has shown the ability to both bully and blow by defenders. Even in “regular season mode”, Kawhi is comfortably a top-five player in the NBA, and his newfound playmaking has carried into the heart of the season (though his assists have gone down since the arrival of Paul George). Kawhi doesn’t have many weaknesses and his strengths are absolutely terrifying – he’s just an incredible player to watch on a daily basis.

This post will also serve as a game thread due to post restrictions – comment about the college football playoffs, other NBA games, and the Clippers-Jazz contest below!