Due to the uneven scheduling in the league, sometimes the Jazz play other western conference teams just three times. The Clippers are one of those teams. After tonight's game, we won't see them the rest of the year.
The Jazz have already taken the season series by winning the first two matches. The first was a Jazz win in 2OT that was the start of their double-digit comebacks. Neither team shot the ball well in that game. It was a great battle down the stretch though as it went back and forth. Eric Gordon took over in that fourth quarter to help tie up the game. It took double-overtime to pull it off, but Deron was able get the game winner,
(NBA Season 10-11)-Deron Williams Gamewinner vs. L.A Clippers (via Nba4Eternity)
We were a bit fortunate that Eric Gordon had to take himself out of the second OT after injuring his left shoulder.
The Jazz were then able to go to LA and pick up a win by putting on the defensive clamps in the second half. They held the Clippers to just 10 field goals and 37 points. This was another double-digit comeback as LA went up 10 to start the third quarter. The Jazz then went on a 13-0 run to take the lead.
It wasn't pretty. The Jazz took nearly three minutes to score as AK hit a three to get things going. On defense, they held LA to just one field goal over the first 6 minutes of that quarter and 5 minutes straight.
A 30-23 quarter gave them the win and their 7th on the road.
Read on for tonight's preview...
The Clippers have won 5 of their last 6 with quality wins over the Bulls and Suns. Their other wins have been against the Piston, Wolves, and a 1-point squeaker over the worst team in the league, the Kings.
Blake Griffin continues to tear things up on offense and provide SportsCenter with a year's supply of highlights. He gets a lot of comparisons to Karl Malone. One way that he is almost identical to the early Mailman is his inability to break 60% from the line. The Clippers are the worst free-throw shooting team in the league primarily due to Griffin getting to the line the most and not being able to convert. That bodes well for the Jazz as they're the second-most fouling team in the league.
I imagine we'll see a lot of Francisco Elson on Golden Boy and a lot of the match-up zone that frustrated him in the second half of the last game.
He's still not the worst free-throw shooter on the team. That "honor" goes to DeAndre Jordan at just 41% on 65 attempts. He does make up for a bit though by shooting 67% from the field.
Other than Griffin, Gordon is the only other player you need to be worried about. He's come on this year by putting up 7 more points a game than last season and boosting his rebounding and assist numbers. He's taken more of the scoring role on as Baron Davis fades in responsibility with the team. It seems as though Davis' only contributions this season have been the alleys to Griffin's oops.
The Jazz are trying to build some winning momentum as they hit a relatively easy stretch of teams. They have a lot of winnable games before heading on a 4-game eastern road trip and another stop in LA to play the Lakers.
They'll need to work on working out rotations with Mehmet Okur back. Tonight will be another test as Andrei Kirilenko is out and CJ Miles may not play. That puts Gordon Hayward into the starting lineup. If CJ can't go, that leaves the Jazz thin at the wing position. Sloan may have to get creative with the lineups again.
LA has dominated the boards in the series. They had a 51-43 advantage in the 2OT game and had 39 boards to Utah's 28 in the second contest. Now would be a good time for the Jazz to start showing that they can rebound. If they can win that battle tonight.
Deron Williams and Paul Millsap have had some of their biggest games against the Clippers the past few seasons. That should continue tonight.
I'm going to be rooting hard for Hayward tonight. He needs to start knocking down those open mid-range jumpers and helping the team offensively. He needs to start showing something. Guys with high basketball IQs but without a game usually end up on the bench... as coaches.
I think we see a more focused team tonight without two of their core players.