The Clippers defeated the Utah Jazz 107-105 in Utah on Wednesday night. Three ClipperBlog writers breakdown and evaluate what happened.
1. The Clippers looked ___ without Caron Butler?
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: Vulnerable. Without Butler, the Clippers lack another small forward. Gomes is more effective and efficient as a small ball four, and has proven he isn’t reliable as a three-man. Who else can play the position? Travis Leslie? Chauncey Billups? Everyone focuses on their lack of a true back-up center (or a second offensive big man), but the small forward position is just as weak.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Worse. It isn’t a surprise, as Caron has been solid in regards to spreading the floor on offense and has done decent work defensively. But most importantly, he isn’t Ryan Gomes.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: Shallow. The Clippers spent a good deal of the first quarter featuring a lineup with Solomon Jones and Ryan Gomes. In 30 minutes of combined play, they took a total of four shots, made none of them, while also committing five personal fouls.
2. Can the Clippers play like this defensively most nights and win?
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: Yes, but only because they out-rebounded the Jazz, 50 to 35, and controlled the defensive boards. Their offensive brilliance will keep them in most games, as they’ve rarely been blown out, but their defensive will be the deciding factor on most nights. Against mediocre teams? They should win 80 percent of the time. Against the cream of the crop? Their defensive performance needs to be better.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Yes. Despite Al Jefferson scoring well, the Clippers (until some contested and tough shots hit late by Utah) limited Utah to a fairly average estimated points per possession. Besides that, the Clippers have the offensive firepower to compete in a shootout, especially when they lean on Chris Paul and put in good effort on the boards, like they did tonight.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: Yes. Most nights this will do just fine because the Clippers offense is arguably unparalleled in the league. If they go up against an opponent that plays a fast pace like tonight, the Clippers will run with a mix of high flying dunks and PUJITs (Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups’ ears just perked up).
3. MVP for tonight — Blake or CP3?
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: Chris Paul, and it’s not even close. For all of Blake’s talent, skill and athleticism, he can’t impact a game the way Paul does. Paul is an offensive maestro, a feisty defender and one of the game’s best leaders, if not the best. Tonight his full arsenal was on display, as he showed that even on a night when only two other Clippers were contributing offensively, he could find the perfect balance between scoring and passing. His late game heroics are a treat to watch.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Chris Paul. This guy is just too good. If you try to stop his penetration and close his passing lanes, he’s going to hit the mid-range jumper more often than he misses it. If you take away the jumper, he’s going to find the open man. He finds guys in transition, he knows when to slow down when they aren’t there, he makes no-look reverse layups, he defends, he bowls really well. Chris Paul is a miracle.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: Chris Paul. At the beginning of the season, I would get nervous when a game would come down to the wire. Not so much anymore. During the postgame interview, Paul himself summed it up best: “When it’s winning time, it’s winning time.”