NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 32:
Utah Jazz (15-16) at Los Angeles Clippers (24-6)
Last game of 2012! Finish strong!
Jazz at Clippers? Easy win for the Jazz . . . provided it's anytime between 1980 and 2000. It's not anymore. Tonight's game is the last game of the 2012 calendar year for the Utah Jazz; it's our 32nd game of the NBA season -- and thus, when the new year starts we will only have 50 more in the regular season. The Clippers are at the top of the Western Conference, which is so silly that I almost feel like correcting that to "Lakers". But that's not fair and untrue. While the Lakers have had their struggles this season the Clippers have thrived. While Vinny Del Negro is the head coach it is clearly point guard Chris Paul who runs the show. The multiple time All-Star, All-NBA Player, and Olympian is always the best player on the floor on any given night. He will try to lead his team to a vaunted position of being one of only a handful of teams to have won 17 games in a row. To do so he'll have to control the pace of the game and pick us apart. Not even Deron Williams on the Jazz can hold him back anymore I think.
During this streak the Clippers have defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings twice, us twice, the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns twice, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Hornets, Denver Nuggets, and the Boston Celtics. It would really suck to be in the history books for being beaten 3 times in a team's historical 17 game win streak. Our 6 and 12 road record don't necessarily make this an easy game to win.
Both teams last played 2 nights ago in Utah. This will be the 3rd game in four nights for LA. The Jazz are much more rested. Hopefully our team didn't have any planned parties at clubs last night. (Miami effect)
History seems to mean less and less in this new NBA. That said, the Jazz are 98 and 63 all time against the Clippers, but have a 37 and 43 record in their gym. Last season these two teams played three times, with the Jazz winning in a blowout, losing in a blowout, and losing a close game at home. This season we've played two of our four games and we've lost both times -- both were close games. Tonight will mark the third time we're playing them in December and the first in STAPLES. Luckily, we're not horrible in that gym anymore. So that helps.
Scouting, Stats, and Stereotypes:
The Jazz are known for fouling, and the Clippers are infamous for their flopping. That doesn't mean we have to call people names though. The Jazz are also known for their inside play and physical defense. While this may or may not be true, this year the Jazz are getting more from their wings and shooting (and making) more threes. Our defense may still be physical, but it's not effective. The Clippers are known (right now) for their stars, their "Lob City" play style, and for having a very talented bench. They're a really good club this year which is hilarious to me because this is the Clippers we're talking about here. It seems like in the 80s one of the staples of stand up comedy was making fun of the Clippers -- even for non-sports fans. Their culture was such that the concept of them being good was a punch line in itself.
This is no longer the case. I may not like some of the players on their team; but you can't argue with going for a 17 game win streak. It's no longer luck or a good schedule -- it's that you're a legit team and a true contender.
Clippers Injuries --
- Chauncey Billups (PG) OUT -- Mr. Big Shot is out indefinitely with left foot tendinitis
- Grant Hill (SF) OUT -- Grant is also out indefinitely with a bone bruise in his right knee
- Trey Thompkins (PF) -- Trey is the third Clippers player who is out indefinitely, and the second who is out with a bone bruise; this one is in his left knee
Jazz Injuries --
- Mo Williams (PG) OUT -- Mo Williams is out indefinitely with a sprained right thumb. He sustained the injury on December 22nd, and it's only been about a week since then. I would not expect to see him rushed back. After all, we're doing so well without him.
- Raja Bell (SG) OUT -- Dude, he just heard about this fiscal cliff stuff and he is doing his part to make a proposal to resolve the deadlock
After a while it's not about who you are missing, but about the level of replacement behind who is missing. No Billups means more time for Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe. No Grant is similarly bad on paper, but it means more time for guys like Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom. All four of these guys are "Jazz Killers", while the two who are out are not. No Mo Williams means . . . more Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley? Clear advantage for the Clippers. Especially so when Mo brings an ability to score the ball with confidence. Without him our last second play is for an awkward Randy Foye leaner.
Randy Foye, man, I feel bad as this is your continued "Clippers Revenge Game Month". And with good reason, though. In two games this year you're averaging 23.5 ppg (62.5 fg%, 50.0 3pt%, 81.8 ft%), 3.5 rpg, and 1.5 apg. One could argue that the ONLY team you're playing well against (according to your season splits) are the Clippers. (You're doing okay against the Houston Rockets as well). With Mo out, and with Marvin having an ever diminished role, you really need to continue stepping up. I don't expect Randy to score 30 points tonight, but I would love to see him make an effort on defense.
We know you can shoot (sometimes). You lead the team in points last game, and came in last in +/-. You were scoring, but so was the other team. I know that Al Jefferson under-performs against larger more athletic defenders, and Paul Millsap is at the same disadvantage tonight as our "stars" go up against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. We will never know what to expect from our C4 because of their minutes. So - - - it's up to Randy Foye to be the player to focus on tonight.
Bench battle. The Clippers boast a great bench. Our bench is the only reason we're in any of the games we win. Whomever wins the bench battle tonight will go a long way towards securing the victory. We already know their starters are all better than our starters. We also know they'll get the calls. They're at home. They have the stars. And they are on a 16 game win streak. The only thing we have is our bench, and theirs (when healthy) is much better than ours as well. So tonight our bench has to be even more impressive than they normally are.
We're going to need DeMarre Carroll on the floor tonight as well because God knows we have trouble guarding guys like Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford with our guards.
Word from the Badguys:
No word today -- but a word from me. Okay, I write "badguys" up there for all the teams, but we're all fans here. None of us are "badguys". The majority of the Clippers fans I know are die hards who suffered through decades of abuse. I'm sure some bandwagon fans aren't legit, but here at SB Nation the people I interact with are all loyal die hards. This includes Clippers fans as well.
So, I'll be the bad guy here and say -- let's not get into personal attacks or say mean things to people (on our team/fanbase or the other). We're all fans here. And we're supposed to be smart fans. At least, smart enough to say funny and clever things even if our team is getting beat. It's easy to get upset over a loss, and easier still to say mean things over the internet.
But we're Jazz fans. We didn't pick the 'easy' route. So doing things the easy way should be something we're predispositioned to be against. Let's do the hard thing by being great fans who are classy and nice -- even if tonight is a blowout (for either team).
Also, shut up!
As an aside:
I really don't like Blake Griffin -- but to be objective to see the tools he has, and the strides he has made as a player after only a handful of seasons means recognizing that he could be a very special player. It took Karl Malone over a decade in the league to get a face up jumper, as a point of reference. I think Blake is really close to getting something like that now, at a much younger age. (No, I'm not comparing the two -- it's hard to compare anyone to the #2 all-time leading scorer in the NBA. It's just a point that Blake is young and improving, even if I think he's a fake toughguy.)
Jazz win, why? Because they can't possibly lose EVERY game to the Clippers, right?