Game 53: Utah Jazz (27-25, Road: 8-18) @ Los Angeles Clippers (30-21, Home: 19-8)
Chris Paul only has 2 home wins against Utah in his entire career
Tonight the Utah Jazz play their last game of the month. March was a beast. And we're not out of the woods yet. This is the second game of a back-to-back set, on the road. Usually that's bad enough. It's also the 3rd game in four nights, the 5th game in seven nights, the 9th game in fourteen days, and, well, the insane 19th game in 31 days. Seriously, over 60% of this month was a game night. That's up over 10% from February and January (30 games in 60 nights). Well, if the Jazz want to pass through the regular season to get to the playoffs, they had to go through the Gauntlet that is the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Clippers are the 4th best team in our conference, and this is absolutely a must win game after last night's poo-poo platter (love you Sacramento Kings).
The side note is that years after D-Will has been traded, I'm still hesitant to say good things about Chris Paul (and people think I never take the side of our front office . . . ha!). Chris Paul is a very talented player who rarely beats the Jazz. Well, he does his best and puts up good numbers; however wins are rare. He has participated in only 6 wins against our team, and he's in his 7th season in the NBA. Tide goes in, tide goes out . . .
He's particularly incapable of getting home wins against the Jazz., where he as 2 wins in 8 tries. That's a 25% winning record. He hopes to get one tonight as he faces off against our super tired, demoralized team. If we're a playoff team we push the recent losses out the window (3 losses in last 4 games), and come out with fire.
After the jump -- what's going on with the Clippers and the Jazz!
What's going on with the Clippers?
The Clippers played last night and won. They are holding onto their homecourt spot so far, with only a handful of games remaining. (We never had homecourt in the D-Will era, btw) Tonight's game is our 3rd and last shot at them. We beat them, they beat us. Now this is the rubber match. Chris Paul beasted us last game, and Blake Griffin made some big plays down the stretch and it was not fun. What was fun was the humiliation that we put them through in Game 1 of the series. We're even at 1 humiliation a piece now. This is the first time we're playing them in their gym, and well, we're not that great of a road team. And they already have 30 wins there. So clearly they have the advantage.
They will be without the services of Chauncey Billups and former Jazz draft pick Mo Williams. But they still have plenty of talented guys. New this time around will be the additions of Nick Young and Kenyon Martin. It will be our first time seeing either in a Clippers uni this season. Martin knows our team well and knows what we like to do, he brings defense and toughness. Nick Young loves to shoot. He's like Bad C.J., if there was no "good C.J." to balance things out.
LA is on a four game win streak, taking games from the Grizzlies, Hornets, Suns, and Trail Blazers. They are formidable at home, and this game marks their last home game in their season long 5 game home stand. No disrespect to DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler, but the guys the Jazz are really afraid of are Chris Paul (despite his historical problems against our team -- or maybe just against Deron Williams?) and Big Bad Blake. They are a very good tandem -- and they get a lot of easy buckets. Which is fine and good if they also give up easy buckets, but one look at perpetually sweating Al Jefferson tells you that with our Jazz squad "nothing comes easy".
Because this is a Chris Paul team the Clippers play at a horrible pace, 28th in the league. Their offense and defensive points per game marks are both average; however they are a #5 offense in terms of Off Rtg. We are #7, and like to play much faster (#15 in the league). The team that controls the tempo will probably control this game. (And of course, controlling the tempo is code for: controlling the glass)
What's going on with the Jazz?
It's really put up or shut up time for our team. We're most likely not going to have home court in the playoffs (if we make it), and as a result, it's important to get some sort of "road swagger" going. The Jazz only have 6 road games next month, so it needs to start tonight.
The Jazz played hard and lost to the 2nd worst team in the conference last night. To say it looks bad when you are in playoff push mode, well, that would be an understatement. Big Al had a very good game in terms of production; however, he's still not an elite level backstop at this level. Jordan doesn't score as much as Cousins though so tonight he should have an easier go on the defensive end.
Devin Harris needs a big game tonight against Chris Paul -- the reason why Chris has done so poorly against the Jazz is because Deron Williams took it to him, forced the tempo he wanted, and took CP3 out of his game. When Paul had all the luxury in the world to do whatever he wanted he torched us earlier this season. Harris has to be the guy who does the torching, and put Paul on his back heels. Which is, clearly, way easier to type than it is to do in game.
The Marquee match-up will remain Paul Millsap vs. Blake Griffin. (Remember Blake's flop last game? And then AL's horrible foul that turned into an and-1 with time running out? Yikes . . . ) If Sap's shot is falling good things happen. If he's on the bench in foul trouble, then we're not in a good position to win the game.
Lastly, I love our younger guys. If any of them wants to make the next step from "after thought" (Gordon Hayward wouldn't be starting right now if Josh Howard was healthy, don't forget) to legit starter then they need to show up during our playoff push. Enes Kanter needs to bang and make buckets. Derrick Favors has to exert his will upon opponents. Gordon needs to keep his head up and believe in his shot. And, well, Alec Burks just needs minutes, baby.