Three days after Turkey Day, the Clippers better be ready now. Watching that first quarter on Friday against the Suns, it was clear that the Clippers players weren’t ready to play. How else can you explain 42 points in the first quarter? The defense should have the goal of holding teams to 42 points in a half. While Steve Nash didn’t have a gaudy line (for him), 16 points on 4 for 12 shooting and 10 assists, he did still draw the defenses around him that allowed Jason Richardson to lounge on the perimeter and calmly knock down shot after shot. The Clippers did fight back, getting within 4 points a couple of times, but they never completely recovered from the complete defensive abomination in the first quarter.
It’s not going to get any easier for the Clips, as the Jazz is a formidable team, currently being expertly led by Deron Willams. The Jazz is off to another good start, 12-5, and they show no signs of slowing down. They are currently rolling on a 4 game winning streak after beating Portland, Sacramento, New Orleans and Los Angeles Lakers. They played especially well against the Lakers when they withstood a barrage from Kobe Bryant in the second half to pull out a narrow 6 point victory.
Deron Williams had a monster game that night, going off for 29 points and 12 assists. He’s so strong, fast and such a great shooter that he might be the most difficult PG cover in the league. It will be especially difficult for the Clippers because of the health issues at point. Baron Davis is out, so is Randy Foye and while Eric Bledsoe will play, he’s nursing a sore ankle and looked pretty tentative in practice. However, this could work out for the best because Gordon will have to run at the point more, and cover Deron more. Gordon does have issues with ball handling, he’s been especially turnover prone in the last three games (he’s had 10 turnovers in the last 3 games), but he possesses the physicality and tenacity to defend Deron Williams. I’m hoping that VDN sees this and even if he starts Bledsoe he has the foresight to mark Deron with Gordon. Because if Deron starts going off, it’s going to be a long game full of open shots and dunks for the Jazz players.
Remember the Hornets game? The Clippers needed to prevent Paul’s usual dominance and, impressively, they did. That second half for Paul was abysmal, he only scored 2 points and had one assist. Much of it due to Eric Gordon’s defense. That alone should give the Clippers hope for a win against the Jazz today.
However, this Jazz team has plenty of personnel around them to still get a win without a decent performance from Deron. Blake has been playing subpar defense (Giving up 39 to Amar’e and 30 to David West) and the interior combo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap could easily have good games against the Clippers.
All the issues with the Clippers appear to be defensive. Will they be able to stop Deron? How will they play Jefferson and Millsap down low? And will they be able to close out on the perimeter shooters? None of that inspires a whole lot of confidence, but at least the Clippers offense is beginning to be effective (108, 100 and 99 points in their last three, and NOH is a good defensive team).
In other news, Chris Kaman is still out.
In more news, I’ll be chatting live from the game with all the crew from the Clippers.