The Utah Jazz are about as desperate for a win as a team can get. After sitting at the top of the conference a couple of times early in the season the team is now ninth in the West with a 2-8 record over the last 10 games.
This game marks the second in a six-game home stand. At one point that would have been a superb thing to note as the Jazz were not too long ago undefeated at home. But fitting for the recent trend, Utah has lost three of its last four in Vivint Arena.
Theoretically, this should be an optimal game for the Jazz to get back on track. They face an injury-riddled LA Clippers squad that’s also on the back end of a road back-to-back. And though they were missing Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Luke Kennard and John Wall, the Clippers edged out a win over Portland in the first leg of their back-to-back series.
When: 7:00 p.m. MT
Where: Vivint Arena | Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: 97.5/1280 The Zone
Paul George — OUT (knee)
Luke Kennard — OUT (calf)
Kawhi Leonard — OUT (ankle)
John Wall — QUESTIONABLE (knee)
Leandro Bolmaro — QUESTIONABLE (concussion protocol)
Mike Conley — OUT (left leg strain)
Rudy Gay — OUT (left hand sprain)
Johnny Juzang — OUT (right wrist sprain)
What to watch for
The unsung Clippers heroes
Utah fans should be no stranger to how deadly the Clippers can randomly be even without stars. Infamous is the April of 2016 game between the Jazz and Clippers where Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin all sat but the Jazz lost 102-99 in overtime — a loss that helped keep Utah out of the playoffs that year. Then, of course, most will remember Terance Mann’s one-hit wonder performance against Utah in the 2020-21 playoffs.
Teams this year are feeling some of that pain. George, Leonard and Kennard have missed multiple games of late and yet LA has won its last two games against the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers. Lesser-known players put up huge games to pull the Clippers to victory. Against the Pacers it was Ivica Zubac who nearly had a 30/30 game, scoring 31 points with 29 rebounds and three blocks. Against the Pacers it was Norman Powell who scored 32 points off the bench (Reggie Jackson also had 24 points, 12 assists vs the Trail Blazers).
Thinking the Jazz are guaranteed to bounce back tonight is risky thinking. The Clippers have too many dangerous pieces that can go off at any point. If Utah doesn’t those threats seriously the losing run will continue six straight and nine losses in 11 games.
Can the Jazz put together a complete game?
Utah doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to put together a few different positives. Offensively we’ve seen Lauri Markkanen have big scoring nights, Jordan Clarkson scoring lots of points, Malik Beasley going off, but none of it has resulted in a win since Nov. 19.
A big part of Utah not being able to take advantage of its own offensive competence is an almost complete lack of defensive competence. Between Nov. 21-29 (the span of Utah’s six straight losses), the Jazz have the worst defensive rating in the league at 122.9 (stretch it to the last 10 games and Utah is 29th in defensive rating in that span).