Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: 6:00 PM PT
How to watch: Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Patrick Beverley – Landry Shamet– Danilo Gallinari – Ivica Zubac
Jazz: Donovan Mitchell - Ricky Rubio - Joe Ingles - Derrick Favors - Rudy Gobert
Jazz: Dante Exum - Out (ankle), Tony Bradley - Out (knee)
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute - Out (sore knee), Wilson Chandler (Quad) - Out
The Big Picture:
The Clippers never match up well with the Jazz. Here’s a not-so-fun fact, the Clippers haven’t beaten the Jazz in the regular season since October 24, 2017. In the four losses since, none have been closer than 12 points. Playing in Salt Lake City only makes this winning proposition less likely, as Jazz fans are notoriously intense and unforgiving. This game is important, as it could bring a brief shifting of seeds in the West — the Jazz are only a half-game ahead of the Clippers in the Western Conference standings. Could the losing trend halt Wednesday night in SLC? It’s going to take some really good play from L.A. and probably some mistakes from Utah.
L.A. has won four of six since the new guys have joined the roster, there’s now a real chance that a playoff run could happen. As of Feb. 27, the Clippers have an 87.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Basketball Reference. The Clips are showing solid chemistry and balance to their new roster at the right time, and are receiving contributions from nearly everyone. Doc is also doing a good job of managing rotations (which hasn’t been his strongest suit this season) so far with the new pieces, and as long as Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Danilo Gallinari are playing their brands of ball, this team will be dangerous.
The two glaring issues right now for L.A. — a lack of fire in the third quarter and Shai Gilgeous Alexander’s lackluster play post All-Star break — could be the reason they don’t see the playoffs, however. The latter of the two is starting to become a concern for L.A. as their prized pupil is hitting another rookie wall after suffering through a sluggish stretch post-Christmas earlier this season. For the month of February, SGA is just 4-for-16 from three and is averaging 2.4 turnovers a game. He is 1 for his last 17 shot attempts and has seven turnovers in his last three games. His shot is very out-of-rhythm and he is partially the reason for the consecutive tough third quarters the Clippers have had. His confidence seems a bit shaken, and the tread on his young body might be wearing down, as the Clips have asked a lot of the 20-year-old. For a young man who probably hadn’t played more than 40 games in a season before, 62 games into the season (53 started), SGA could be showing signs of fatigue. There is obviously still time to turn things around, and SGA has given us no reason to believe he won’t, but his production as of late is worrisome and something to keep an eye out for.
The Jazz have done this the last two seasons — start slow, finish strong. After starting the first 30 or so games out of the playoff race, Utah has strung together win streak after win streak and now find themselves in the thick of the Western Conference Playoff race. They are a matchup nightmare for teams like the Clippers, who don’t have the strongest inside presence, and have the spacing, guard play and shooting to decimate teams. With star guard Donovan Mitchell scoring at will as of late (averaging 26.2 PPG since January), Rudy Gobert being one of the bigger All-Star snubs in recent memory, and Joe Ingles continuing to be Mr. Consistent, this Jazz team is deep, dangerous, and hungry to make another playoff run. With Gobert and Favors up front, the Clippers’ smaller front-line will have their work cut out for them. This win would be big for both teams involved.
A key to defending Donovan Mitchell: According to ESPN NBA Analyst Kirk Goldsberry, Donovan Mitchell is the NBA’s worst finisher around the rim this season at 48 percent. With L.A.’s rim protection being better as of late (still not spectacular, but improving), they could have a decent chance at limiting Mitchell. Forcing him deep into the paint, and out to the three-point line (only shooting 29.8 percent from deep in February) could help the Clips win this game.
Joe Ingles is immortal: Perhaps one of the worst moves of Doc Rivers’ tenure as GM was cutting Joe Ingles before the 2014 season. Ingles has routinely burned the Clips, and the rest of the league, since. Starting Dec 16 2015, Ingles has played in 281 consecutive games. This leads the league. At 31, this is an impressive feat, and he has showed no signs of slowing down.
Montrezl is becoming a media darling: Between appearing on ESPN’s The Jump last week, being profiled in the Washington Post in January, Stephen A. Smith calling him the “closest player to Dennis Rodman in today’s NBA,” being written up on Clips Nation seemingly every week, and having his name written about at The Ringer a bunch, Trez is no longer a secret to NBA Twitter and die-hards.
Trez and Lou are a historic bench force: Trez and Lou Williams are on pace to make NBA history this season, as they currently have the highest combined scoring average by a reserve duo (36.2 PPG) in league history according to the Clippers. It makes complete sense, of course. If you watch one Clips game, the chemistry is palpable and essential to the makeup of the team. They lead the number one scoring bench in the league, and should continue to dominate moving forward.