Utah Jazz at L.A. Clippers
February 23, 2013
7:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
The Clips just got shellacked by the Spurs. It’s possible Saturday night is an example of a good team taking out its frustrations on an opponent at home. It’s also possible that the week off after Valentine’s Day disrupted the Clippers’ rhythm. Either way, L.A. enters the match against the Jazz only two games back of the Thunder for the 2-seed in the Western Conference. Now onto 3-on-3:
1. Who’s the more exciting heat check player when he’s on: Jamal Crawford or Mo Williams?
Jordan Heimer, (@jordanheimer): Mo can’t compete with Jamal on style points. There’s nothing in his arsenal that rivals Jamal’s audacious behind-the-back crossover the patented kick-out that has earned so many 4-point play opportunities. And yet, I still have to go with the entirety of the Mo Williams On Fire Experience, that chappy, chest-puffed swagger that only comes with being undersized and feeling under-appreciated.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Jamal Crawford. Mo Williams can heat up on a moment’s notice, but at least while he was playing with Chris Paul, his scoring tears were often a result of being fed the ball in the right place at the right time (don’t you remember how effortlessly Mo would curl off a screen at the elbow extended and rise up for a jumper?). Jamal Crawford, on the other hand, much prefers to create for himself off the dribble and I’m sucker for a silky crossover.
Jeremy Conlin, (@jeremy_conlin): This is definitely Crawford. When Williams is going for a heat check, he at least strikes some balance between opportunity and responsibility. Crawford makes no attempt to find such a balance, or even acknowledge that such a balance exists. A pull-up 30-footer? No problem. 14 seconds of crossovers followed by a step-back three with a hand in his face? You betcha. Careening into the paint and throwing up a floater that he might as well be taking blindfolded? Yeah, that just happened. When Crawford is hot, there is literally no shot that he won’t take.
2. Utah is only a half a game back of Golden State and three games back of Denver. Where do the Jazz finish in the West?
Heimer: Sixth. Of course, with the West as ultra-competitive as ever, and the disappointing Lakers still lurking, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jazz were to slip out of the playoffs entirely. But, contrasted with the plodding and banged-up Lakers, a Golden State team whose defense has dramatically regressed in 2013, and a thinned-out Rockets, the Jazz, with their core of dependable bigs and legendary home-court edge, seem like a good bet to continue their consistent play.
Shagrin: 7th, 8th, or out. The Jazz have a pretty moderate schedule the rest of the way through the season and should continue winning at the same consistent clip. Where the Jazz finish in the standings is much more a question of how erratic the Warriors and Rockets play in the final stretch and whether the Lakers start playing like a team with multiple first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Conlin: They aren’t too far back from Golden State and Denver, but at the same time, they aren’t very far ahead of Houston and Los Angeles, either. The Lakers, Rockets, and Dubs are teams that see their performance fluctuate pretty wildly from game to game. Golden State and Houston because of their reliance on the three ball, and the Lakers because you just don’t know which Laker team going to show up. I think it’s doubtful that Utah catches Denver, but I can see Golden State, Utah, Houston, and LA finishing in just about any order.
3. Al Jefferson is averaging 22.7 points per game against the Clippers this season. Does he continue to beat the Clips in the post Saturday night?
Heimer: The real question isn’t whether Jefferson will continue to abuse the Clippers in the post – he will. The question is how the Clippers counter. Although DJ is still susceptible to leaving his feet on a head-fake, he has been the only Clipper big to demonstrate a consistent ability to defend bigger scorers like Jefferson, Nene, and Marc Gasol; Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf simply don’t have the strength to keep these players from establishing deep position. And yet, Jordan hasn’t seen the floor during crunch time of Jazz games in the past – will that change tonight?
Shagrin: More than likely. But Al Jefferson beating the Clippers on the offensive end is a sacrifice Vinny Del Negro should be willing to make given Jefferson’s notoriously awful pick n’ roll defense. If Big Al expends his energy carrying the load on offense, he’ll have an even tougher time keeping his feet under him on defense.
Conlin: For this Utah team, it almost might be better to just give Jefferson his points. Jefferson’s best game against the Clips this season (December 30th – 13/22 from the floor, 30 points) was actually the easiest win for the Clippers of the three (107-96 at home). Jefferson is is a tough matchup because it’s very hard to force him into turnovers, even when you double-team him. His turnover rate of 6.7 percent is third-best in the league. Meanwhile, he shoots just 49 percent from the floor, not a spectacular number from a post guy. If you give him his shots and his points and stay at home on Utah’s shooters, that’s probably the best game-plan. Jefferson just isn’t the type of guy that will drop 50 points if you single cover him every time.