Few things are as comforting and familiar as taking a poop in your bathroom after a few days out of town, on vacation, or a business trip. Few things are, but seeing the Los Angeles Clippers at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, and the Utah Jazz among the top, is up there. The 2-0 Jazz are tied with the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns for 2nd best in the West (wow, time machine much?); while the Clips are dead last. Of course, this is just the 'preseason', and by the time that the Playoffs come around it's likely that we'll be the ones with the struggle winning percentage; but I'm not sold on the idea of the Clippers being an enduring dynasty or anything. They're good now, but for how long?
Los Angeles lost, at home, to a super hot Golden State Warriors team 112-94. Then yesterday lost on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers (a team we beat twice) 119-114. You can argue that in the first game the Clippers didn't really want it -- despite having Blake Griffin finish with 24, 12, 3 and 2, and Chris Paul finishing with 14, 9, 2, and 3.But in the second game they went out there and scored 40 points in the 4th quarter and just barely lost. That said, they did use a closing lineup of Jordan Farmar, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, and Spencer Hawes. So maybe they are doing the hipster thing by trying and then ensuring failure because success requires effort?
I don't know what kind of games the Clippers are going to be playing tonight, but I suspect that it's going to involve keeping all of their starters under 30 minutes, and jacking up a ton of threes. The Clippers are averaging 104.0 PPG this preseason, with 35.4% of all of their 175 FGA being from outside. The math works out in their favor as they chuck up 31.00 shots a game from there, and they are making 40.3% as a team. The only teams that shoot more threes per game from outside so far this preseason are the Dallas Mavericks (33.67 3PTA) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (32.00). Their offense is always going to look good with two All-Stars flanked buy a legion of good players (J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, etc); but it's defense where they appear to struggle (Now and forever).
Opponents are averaging 115.50 ppg against them, and teams are shooting 51.4 fg% / 52.3 3pt%, while getting to the line 35.00 times a game. That makes sense against the trigger happy Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers. both teams have good shooters, slashers, floor space, and star players. Utah does not.
The Jazz are playing with more pace this year, but it's not like they can compete with Golden State. They do have the 13th best offensive output on average (by ppg), and the main reason for that appears to be their dedication to sharing the ball and finding the best shot available (#2 in the league with a 49.4 fg%). That's important because while the Jazz are quite adept at making three this year (#3, 42.9 3pt%), they still only take 14.0 threes a game (#27th in the NBA). Compounding the lack of 'taking advantage of an advantage' is the fact that Utah seems to do okay at getting to the free throw line (a middle of the pack 27.50 FTA per game, good enough for 17th in the NBA despite having no stars), their ability to make their free throws does not instill confidence (60.0 FT%, good enough for 29th in the NBA). Utah can win, but they don't make it easy on themselves. Quin Snyder isn't trying to unlock all the achievements for winning the game on a higher difficulty level (Tyrone Corbin did this by starting a small ball line up and playing at Memphis Grizzlies speed), this is just an execution issue right now. And right now from what we've seen of the team, they are working to get the best shot, not tactically playing the percentages just yet.
The Clippers do, with all of their three point bombs.
For LA everyone is healthy save for Ekpe Udoh, who has a sprained ankle. Utah will have Rodney Hood back, and Ian Clark is supposed to be available. Carrick Felix is still going to miss the next month of the season because of a shoulder injury.
EDIT! ALEC BURKS IS OUT!
EDIT! JAMAL CRAWFORD and MATT BARNES are both OUT too!
Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford are both OUT tonight for the Los Angeles clippers against the jazz— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) October 13, 2014
And that brings us to the normative match-ups. The Clippers know who they are, know what they can get away with, and have obvious strengths. Chris Paul is among the best point guards in the league right now and is a two way threat. He will relish playing against a bunch of second year players (Trey Burke, Toure' Murry) and rookies (Dante Exum) tonight. It's going to be a good test. The paint is always the spot to watch most of the action when these two teams play, though. The Clippers are 'fake tough' with guys like Blake and Matt Barnes. The Jazz are legit 100% USDA Grade A beef inside. And guys like Enes Kanter (and ESL student who moved from his homeland to attend high school in the USA) have lived their entire life having to defend themselves from the depredations of those Letterman jacket wearing jocks. But we all know if there was to be a physical altercation the Turk would grind them into the earth.
Their starters have more experience, our starters have the potential to be great. Trey Burke is playing like a beast right now, and these young guys aren't afraid to test themselves against the presumed best of the West.