The Utah Jazz franchise has played the Los Angeles Clippers franchise 185 times over the last four decades of basketball, regular season and playoffs combined. The Utah Franchise (originally form New Orleans) has won 106 of those 185 games against the Los Angeles Franchise (originally from San Diego via New York via Buffalo). That’s a winning percentage of .573. Another math trick, and you may not follow this one so be sure to read and re-read this one a few times if you need to, is that 185 games is larger than 20 games.
Why bring this obvious-ism up? Well, it seems like some people on both sides of the LAC / UTA fandom have been bringing up the last 20 game stretch in the head-to-head match-up as some magic number. It’s not. It’s arbitrary. It’s also a very small, but yes recent, sample size. But the sample itself is invalid for this comparison.
It’s 2:23 am right now, so I will be going into lugubrious detail.
First, the last 20 game stretch really is hilarious because it just cuts out in the middle of an on-going season. It’s cherry picking the losses (that happened at the end of that season) while cutting out the wins (that happened at the beginning of that season); from the same season. Yeah, sure, if we’re limiting it to 20 games then 20 is 20 and you can’t argue that. But in this case it’s a sampling error - or negligence. The February 1st loss (105-107) counts, but the January 17th win (108-79) doesn’t? Okay.
In the last 20 games the Jazz are, indeed, 2-18. That looks bad. In the last 25 games the Jazz are 7-18. That’s a huge jump in percentage as Utah wins 100% of the next 5 games. In fact the Jazz were trouncing the Clippers routinely. If you go from the last 20 games to the last 40 you get this split: 22-18 in favor of the Jazz. That’s goes back to March of 2006, but again, that’s in the middle of an on-going season.
But certainly games when Utah was running up an down with Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Andrei Kirilenko have no bearing on these two teams today. True. If that’s the case then why do games where Enes Kanter is starting count? That seems like selective counting.
In fact, if you look at the last 20 games, where the Jazz would win only 2, there was a 13 game losing streak in it. Those where the least recent 13 games of that 20 games sample size. There was a lot of turn over on those teams, but the teams that were in that 13 game losing streak were hilarious.
Looking at just Gordon Hayward we see:
- Starting (SG): 5/13 times next to a combination of Josh Howard, C.J. Miles, and Richard Jefferson
- Starting (SF): 4/13 times next to a combination of Alec Burks, Rodney Hood, and Joe Ingles
- Bench player: 4/13 times, behind a combination of Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll, and Marvin Williams
The chronology of it is equally hilarious, as he started at SG, went to the bench, and finally started again at SG, and then at SF. This was his “development” process over the last FIVE years (again, data set is from March 2012 to today). And he was the most consistently developed guy. And these teams were a mess, and most importantly, do not resemble the team today.
During this 13 game losing streak the Jazz started Devin Harris, Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Trey Burke, and Dante Exum. None of them are George Hill - who will be starting today.
Another hilarious thing? During this 13 game losing streak we see Rudy Gobert join the team, and get into some games for just the final minute of them. During this span we see him start zero times.
How useful is this data if we never see Rudy as a rotation player and find Gordon all over the place? It’s a far cry from what it was during this dark Tyrone Corbin era to what we have today. I don’t know if this data is valid at all, except if you want a 20 game sample size, that again, cuts seasons in half just for lazy reasons.
So the data set is arbitrary. And the data set includes information that no longer applies. So what does? Well, the simple thing would be to look at the season series head to head. And that’s a 1-3 split where the Jazz are clearly losing more than half the time. In those four games the Clippers started Chris Paul x3 (Austin Rivers x1), J.J. Redick x4, Luc Mbah a Moute x4, Blake Griffin x4, and DeAndre Jordan x4.
Those are their top dawgs. And they won three of four games with them.
Who did the Jazz start? George Hill x4, Rodney Hood x3 (Joe Inlges x1), Gordon Hayward x2 (Joe Johnson x2), Derrick Favors x1 (Boris Diaw x3), and Rudy Gobert x4.
That’s a little more complicated, messy, and non-continguious. If you look at the line-up data from NBA.com you see that the Clippers have played their regular starters hundreds of minutes more than any existing Jazz line-up this year.
For all their injuries, their bugs hit their scrubs the most. That wasn’t the case for Utah this year.
So even with the most recent data, the 1-3 data, you see the Jazz not being at their best. Is that an excuse? Probably. Is it more valid than including data in this set where Gordon is coming off the bench behind DeMarre Carroll? Absolutely.
At the end of the day, the Clippers won 18 of their last 20 against the Jazz. Those Jazz teams where not this Jazz team. And in time, this grouping of data points will be lost in the greater sea of information - one that does show the Jazz beating the Clippers.
Utah has a different coach, and a healthy roster. A defensive focus has taken over ‘Conqueror ball’. And the Clippers would be fools to think that these are the same old Jazz they’ve been bullying for the last, arbitrary, flawed, last 20 games.