The Clippers finish their first road back to back against the Utah in Energy Solutions Arena, historically a very tough road environment. Even with the continued improvement of the team in the early season, the Clippers haven’t shown the ability to hang in there in tough games. Their lone win came against the Thunder in what was pretty much a rout. In other games, like the Dallas, Portland, Golden State and Denver games, they were in the game for the first halves before imploding in the second.
They still haven’t found their identity as a team and their second half meltdowns are less about talent than they are cohesion. While they play with youthful fervor, their sacrificing consistency. Eric Gordon is no longer shooting free-throws like he did in his first season (missing three 5 of his 14 attempts yesterday) and Kaman hasn’t found his rhythm that led him to his first All Star berth last year. Generally, inconsistency is compounded by tired legs and minds that come with playing the second night of a road back to back, so the Clippers will have to be especially careful and measured.
Fortunately, the Jazz are on the heels of a back to back as well (they lost to Golden State last night) so they should be finding their legs as well. Even though the Jazz are only 2-3, with an early loss at home. I expect them to round into shape. Al Jefferson’s complete tear in his ACL and total reconstructive surgery typically takes two years to heal, so he should be starting to find his game now (remember he was averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds before he blew out his knee in 2008-2009).
And let’s not forget, Deron Williams. Like Chauncey Billups last night, Deron is a very strong point guard, although he uses his strength differently than Chauncey. Instead of backing down opponents he uses it to maintain space while driving or controlling his body as he attacks the hoop. So while Bledsoe will still give up some strength he has the athleticism to still challenge Deron.