Aside from one game where literally everything went wrong, the Clippers have looked like one of the best teams in the NBA through five games. They currently sit a top the Western Conference at 4-1 and look to build to their early season resume with a win over the Jazz. The Clippers have defeated the Lakers, Nuggets and Blazers so far this year, three teams that will be (likely) in the playoffs and very well could be in the top four of the standings. Utah will be another tough task for LA.
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: Friday, Jan. 1, 6 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 LA Sports
Projected starting lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka
Jazz: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neal, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert
Clippers: Marcus Morris Sr. (sore right knee), Jay Scrubb (foot surgery) — OUT
The Clippers are coming off of back-to-back 23 point victories, with their last one being against Portland. Kawhi Leonard returned to the lineup and didn’t miss a beat. He led all players with 28 points as he shot better than 50 percent from the field and knocked down three from deep. Paul George, who is playing like an MVP candidate early on, was great yet again. He scored 23 and nearly had a triple double, finishing with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
It wasn’t only the duo who produced for the Clips, they had four other players add at least 11 points. Serge Ibaka (who hasn’t been traded after Kawhi’s request) continued to show why he was the biggest signing of the offseason. He had 11 points and eight rebounds and added a block and a steal. Another valuable signing has been Nicholas Batum, who scored 11 points as well while adding five rebounds and three assists. Though it’s only been five games, he’s exceeded expectations so far.
Utah sits at 2-2 on the season and is coming off a loss to the Phoenix Suns last night. Through the first four games, their usual suspects are doing damage. Donovan Mitchell is averaging 21 points a game and their new $200 million man Rudy Gobert is averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds a game.
Both of these teams met three times last season, with Utah coming out victorious in two of the three. Ironically, although these are two of the best teams in the conference, all three of their games last season were 11+ decisions. The Clippers won by 11 once and lost by 13 and 14 in the other two.