When the Utah Jazz were looking to catch a break after the loss to the Sacramento Kings, they didn’t anticipate it would be to the leg off their backup big, Ed Davis. Now they face the Kawhi Leonard led Los Angeles Clippers in LA without Rudy Gobert’s main backup and, to add insult to injury, Mike Conley’s backup, Emmanuel Mudiay, is not available for tonight’s game as well. In the last meeting between these two teams, Utah’s backcourt exploded for a combined 53 points with Mike Conley finding his season rhythm. Utah will hope that those two are ready to do some heavy lifting again in the face of their shallow backcourt depth.
While the Jazz offense seemed to have found their rhythm in that game—then mysteriously lost it again against Sacramento—the LA Clippers had an excuse to be on the wrong end of a loss to the Mountain Men of Utah: no Kawhi Leonard. He was scratched from the last game for some routine Load Management. Without Leonard, Lou Williams took on the scoring responsibility and unfortunately fell short without the Finals MVP.
Utah is hoping they can wash out the bad taste of the Sacramento loss from their mouths. In a game that turnovers and terrible rebounding plagued them, it was the first loss of the season that had the feeling of Utah overlooking an opponent. Sacramento was a desperate team who was fighting not to stay winless, Utah looked like the better team who just wanted to clock in and clock out without putting in hard work at the job that night. Utah STILL had a chance to win that game despite going through the motions of on court effort and ultimately lost due to not showing that effort on a rebound when it mattered most. One could point to how the game was right after Halloween night, the team was traveling, and they could have been tired, but two of those excuses could still hold true for the team they were facing that evening.
Luckily, Utah can use the same motivation that Sacramento had on Friday. Utah will be a desperate team as they don’t want to have their second straight loss tonight with two more games ahead of the schedule—Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks—who could be even more of a difficult task. Utah has to capitalize on Paul George’s absence and not hold any self-pity for being without Ed Davis, Dante Exum, and Emmanuel Mudiay. We all know the Clippers don’t care.
Let’s hope no one has the LA flu today.
When: Sunday, November 1, 2019 • 7:00 PM MT
Where: Staples Center • Los Angeles, CA
TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
Kawhi Leonard vs Anyone Who’ll Take Him
I almost put Bojan Bogdanovic here, but let’s be frank, Utah is going to throw everything they got at Kawhi Leonard hoping to slow him down. If he were not going to miss so many games this season due to “Load Management,” he’d be my pick for MVP of the league. The Fun Guy is averaging 29.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.0 blocks a game. He’s shooting over 50% from the field and 39% from three. He’s a literal machine. He has not been held to less than 20 points in a game yet this season. If there’s a defense that could disrupt him it’s the Utah Jazz, but the task is, who steps up to do that?
Royce O’Neale is Utah’s best perimeter defender, but Kawhi could be licking his chops at challenging Tony Bradley in the paint. Utah could look to mirror Gobert’s minutes to Kawhi’s this game to prevent Kawhi from putting points in a hurry, but that means another problem pops up for Utah, Lou Williams.
The good news for Utah is that they’re the 2nd best team defending in transition (95.0 points per 100 poss) and the 7th best team defending in halfcourt (86.6 points per 100 poss). The bad news for Utah is the LA Clippers are the best team in the league in the halfcourt (100 points per 100 possessions). They’re efficient, balanced, and execute their offense with precision.
One thing that gets the advantage of hiding among Utah’s amazing defensive rating is how terrible Utah’s turnovers are for their defense. Utah’s defense could be downright legendary if they could clean up their unforced errors on the offensive end. While Utah has the gives up the least amount of points per 100 possessions on defense, they are the 22nd worst team in transition after a—you guessed it—turnover. While Utah only gives up 1.7 points per 100 possessions, it actually works out to 152.4 points per 100 possessions when you look at how many points PER play (shot, free throws that started by a steal by the opposing team).
On top of that, Utah has the worst turnover percentage in the league at 17.4%. Jazz opponents average 7.0 steals per game against Utah, 12th highest in the league. When Utah’s turnovers are flipped to per 100 possessions basis, they’re at 18.5 turnovers a game. Utah’s worst enemy is itself right now. Can they get out of their own way tonight in LA? Right now without much practice, I have my doubts.
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