This afternoon the Utah Jazz (1-1) will face the Los Angeles Clippers (1-0) for the first time this season. The two teams felt each other out in the preseason, both teams losing at home. The games matter now. And Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan are aiming for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. Our squad of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert? They aren’t going to get a chance to play together in their first game of the season for at least another month. Still, Utah is aiming for the playoffs as well. Recently the Clip Show has really had the Jazz’ goat. Over the last 16 times they’ve faced off against one another, the Clippers won 15 times. That’s very one sided.
But it wasn’t always like this. It used to be really bad for LA — especially when Karl Malone joined the team. Back when it was New Orleans against Buffalo the Jazz were a really bad team, but after moving to Utah there came a lot of stability and the wins started to accumulate. When the Clippers were in San Diego it was a mixed bag. During the Malone era? Man. You just assumed a win against the Clippers.
It didn’t start pretty . . . but when The Mailman joined the team things got better. Immediately.
Utah with Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, and Karl Malone really knew how to close out these games — only one of these 60 games went to overtime. Remarkable!
This period includes our recency bias era of hating the “Flopcity” era Clippers who get away with a lot and escape with a lot of wins. (Man, I’m still cheesed by that Chauncey Billups game, you know the one!)
So the major positive trend for the Jazz started from about Game 50 and ended around game 165. That’s from 1985 till 2012. That’s a very long time. Of course, the Jazz didn’t start off great. And the Jazz have gone 1-15 in their last 16. So that only makes the winning era that much more pronounced.
If you break it down into different eras you get the following results:
- Pre-Malone (GM 1 to 52, 1974-85): 18-34 (34.5 win %), -220 in +/- (-4.23 per game)
- Malone Era (GM 53 to 135, 1985-03): 63-20 (75.9 win %), +694 (+8.36 /G)
- Post-Malone to last Jazz blowout win (GM 136 to 165, 2003-12): 22-8 (73.3 win %), +193 (+6.43 /G)
- Last 16 Games (GM 166 to 181, 2012-16): 1-15 (6.3 win%), -97 (-6.06 /G)
It’s a pretty steep fall over the last few games for sure. Silver lining? These aren’t absolute blowouts. The Jazz have lost to the Clippers by under 5 points seven different times. A few calls here or there, a few better shots at the free throw line? These are Jazz wins. So even during the Clippers best ever era, it’s not like they are really decimating the Jazz. A similar period where the Jazz went 15-1 (GM 115 to 130) had the Jazz going up by +181, or +11.31 points per game, with seven games being won by 15 or more points.
I guess my overlying thesis here is that LAC has UTA’s number right now, but a) it wasn’t always like this, and b) BOO Clippers suck! Also, Karl Malone’s first three games against the Clippers in his career? A 40 point Jazz win, a 34 point Jazz loss, and then a 40 point Jazz win. So that’s two consecutive 74 point swings in a row.
Thanks to Basketball-Reference.com for helping me collect this data. (GM 1-100, GM 101-181)