Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz
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For the Clippers, the challenge of beating two of the best in the West in consecutive games pales in comparison to winning against the Jazz on the road. We’ll preview the matchup as they try to avoid their 43rd loss in 44 trips to Utah.
1. What did we learn from the Clips’ 29-point loss at Utah a couple of weeks ago?
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: That Vinny Del Negro is thinking “big picture.” Playing without Chris Paul and Mo Williams in the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back, he conceded defeat around halftime. Ryan Gomes, Courtney Fortson and Trey Thompkins all played big minutes, although it was tough to argue their play could have been worse than the “starters.” A very Popovich-ian approach from the onetime Spur.
Breene Murphy, ClipperBlog: That it’s hard to trust this Clips team on the road without Chris Paul, and it only makes it worse without Mo Williams. On both sides of that Utah game, the Clips took care of business at home. But in Utah, without their floor leaders for both first and second units, the Clippers looked hapless.
Jordan Heimer, ClipperBlog: That when Chris Paul is out, Mo Williams’ value becomes that much more obvious. Chauncey Billups’ pedigree may be closer to Paul’s, but Williams is the only player who can – kind of, sort of, fractionally – use speed and aggression to replicate the pressure CP3 puts on defenses. When both point guards missed the Utah game, the Clippers became an iso-happy, perimeter-shooting team.
2. To snap out of their Utah funk, the Clippers need to ____________________ .
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Come out with energy. With Paul healthy, they enter every game with enough talent to win, but they make it much easier on themselves when they are active on the glass and play defense with purpose. If they can do those things, they should be able to win even if they don’t shoot 3′s at a 60% clip, like they have in the last few games.
Breene Murphy, ClipperBlog: Keep the Chris Paul machine running. In the last two games, Paul has been instrumental in the wins with his aggressive playmaking. Paul driving this bus means quality looks for everyone else, and his composure on the road will help a team that has struggled so far this year (2-4 away from Staples).
Jordan Heimer, ClipperBlog: Start fast. Obviously, a healthy Clippers team can beat the Jazz with talent to spare, but the home court advantage of EnergySolutions is the X-factor. Come out of the gate with the same energy we saw against Oklahoma City and take the crowd out early.
3. Which team wins their 13th game of the season on Wednesday night?
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: The Clippers. I think it’s awesome that the Jazz have won 12 games already, it really gives a voice to those who question the notion that you need to be either contending or rebuilding. With Paul and Williams healthy, though, this one should go differently than the last one and 42 of the last 43.
Breene Murphy, ClipperBlog: Clips. Last year, Blake Griffin had a dunk fest against the Knicks, the energy infected his teammates and spread to the following games (the win over the then-first-place Hornets happened right afterwards). With Blake’s monstrous dunk over Perkins inspiring the team similarly this year, mix with Chris Paul’s best string of performances, and dashed with the humiliation of the last loss in Utah, I think the Clippers bull-doze on through.
Jordan Heimer, ClipperBlog: The Clippers. Chris Paul is so competitive that he would cheat his grandmother in a game of canasta. He’s so competitive he threw at his toddler in a game of T-ball (Editor’s note: this is a true story). He’s so competitive he’d still rather be a Laker, but only “for the challenge.” (I kid) At any rate, the man talks a lot about his overactive competitive drive. He suffered through last week’s beating on the bench – but he took it personally none-the-less.