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Clippings: Despite the blowout loss, the Clippers did some good things on defense against Utah

There’s a lot to build on until the offensive reinforcements arrive.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Clippers played the Jazz competitive for about 32 minutes before their offense (which was missing three starters and Luke Kennard) gave out against the second-best defense in the league. It’s hard to make any conclusions about what LA’s offense would look like at full strength; the shorthanded Clippers simply wore down as the game went on, and jumpers didn’t go in.

On the other side of the ball, however, there was a lot to like about the team’s defense. Head coach Ty Lue said pregame that the goal was for the Clippers to stay in front of their man so that the Jazz didn’t end up in drive-and-kick situations, which would put the Clippers in rotations. Lue also wanted the Clippers to guard the pick-and-roll two-on-two without committing help.

For the most part, the Clippers did a good job of staying connected on defense and preventing catch-and-shoot threes. The Jazz had 19 assists, but 13 of them led to 2-pointers. Of their 13 threes, the majority of them were unassisted. The Clippers also did a decent job of going over screens to prevent the Utah guards from creating pull-ups on their own, because giving Donovan Mitchell or even Jordan Clarkson a sliver of space behind a pick means they’re launching.

The first half was quite good defensively. The Clippers applied pressure on the ball handlers, and Patrick Beverley, unsurprisingly, was really good at the point of attack. LA only surrendered five 3-point attempts in the entire second quarter, (keep in mind the Jazz average over 42 per game), and they were all misses. Utah ran some pick-and-roll, but could only create action towards the basket as the Clippers stayed home on the shooters.

“I think playing pick-and-roll two on two, we did a great job in that first half,” Lue said postgame. “I thought Pat Beverley was really good on Donovan (Mitchell), made him work and take some in-between 2s, which we want, and we was able to stay home. I thought we did a good job of playing the pick-and-roll two on two.... Overall, that first half, I thought it was pretty picture perfect beside going under on two of those screens when they got 3s in that first half, which gave them two of their five 3s.”

The concern for the Clippers would be containing Rudy Gobert at the basket. Even Ivica Zubac’s size wasn’t enough to deter Gobert. The French center made eight of his ten shot attempts in the paint and had 20 rebounds, which helped the Jazz have 12 more shot attempts than the Clippers. LA was pretty good defending the initial action in the half court, but Utah got too many offensive rebounds — which led to 21 second-chance points — and then got to play in transition when the Clippers turned the ball over.

The Clippers couldn’t realistically go small because they were missing four perimeter players, but it’s something to consider to at least space Gobert out on defense if they can’t affect his offense. The Jazz were plus-22 when Gobert played against Zubac; but the two teams were even when Gobert played against Serge Ibaka, who is a credible 3-point shooter. Hopefully, the Clippers have the bodies to play the card when the two teams meet up again Friday.

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