Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
7:30 p.m. PST
December 28, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Should the Clippers be encouraged or discouraged after two straight heart-breaking road losses to Golden State and Portland?
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): As a fan, it’s discouraging. There’s no question about that. As a player, you might feel the same way. But as an unbiased evaluator, it has to be encouraging. The Clippers lost on two consecutive nights on the road in two of the toughest arenas to play in the NBA. There’s no shame in that. Just because Nicolas Batum happened to make – instead of miss – a three at the end of regulation doesn’t tell us anything more or less about the Clippers.
Davis Vo, (@Davisvo): Encouraged. When Jared Dudley made his clutch three against the Timberwolves earlier this week despite going 0-for-6 from long range to start the game, we praised the Clippers for trusting their process. The Clippers have played great against two very tough Western Conference teams, despite “technical difficulties” and playing at Portland on a back-to-back. Yet, the Clippers competed and could easily be 2-0 in another world. Trust the process.
Dylan Rice-Leary, (@dylearium): Losing by a hair and some questionable whistles to both Golden State and Portland on back-to-back nights was indeed heartbreaking, but by no means should this be discouraging to the Clippers. And even though the Warriors and Blazers are great teams, I don’t think there were a lot of moral victories to be taken from these losses, either. If anything, I should think these games will toughen the Clippers’ resolve. Bad calls, injuries, great shooting nights and/or suspect tactics from other teams – these are obstacles the Clippers are going to need to learn how to overcome if they want to be truly great.
2. What does Trey Burke’s future look like?
Katz: If you can run the pick-and-roll, make good decisions, shoot accurately with a quick release, and have enough ice in your veins to demand the last shot consistently, you can be a successful point guard in the NBA. That’s basically Damian Lillard’s M.O., right? If Burke can fit into a similar mold as Lillard does, his future will look pretty darn good.
Vo: I’m a big proponent that rookies are a product of their situation, and this is especially so with point guards. With no real threat, Burke has gotten a chance to shine with his three-point shooting (35.7 percent) and steady game management (1.4 turnovers a game), something the Jazz have desperately needed. In order to be a bigger offensive threat, Burke needs to be more efficient from the field, and that starts with finishing better around the rim (46.88 percent on shots in the paint).
Rice-Leary: My only hesitation in calling Burke a future All-Star has to do with the plethora of ridiculously talented individuals currently playing point guard in the NBA. That said, the kid is on track to be an All-Star caliber player at his position. This is not some shooting guard playing at the point. Burke looks like the real deal at the 1. He plays with a confidence that belies his years, he already runs the floor with poise, and his teammates seem to love playing with him. Add another year or two of seasoning and reaping the fruits of “rebuilding”, and Burke ought to be one heck of a player manning the point of a strong young team bursting with talent.
3. Why is the Jazz defense bad enough to rank last in the NBA?
Katz: The Jazz’s defensive chemistry is consistently subpar. They don’t communicate, they don’t play off each other, and they don’t help. That’s a problem when Tyrone Corbin sets up a system that has big men showing hard on every pick-and-roll opportunity. Add in the fact that Corbin doesn’t really ever play Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the Jazz’s supposed two bigs of the future, together anymore and there are some real issues in Utah.
Vo: Rebounding. As a team, the Jazz rank 26th in total rebounds a game and 39th in defensive rebounding. Despite Derrick Favors’ breakout year, he’s only averaging 9.0 rebounds a game. This number is fine if it were compensated by the rest of the team, but Marvin Williams is the starting power forward (5.0 rebounds a game)! Around the perimeter, the Jazz are also the mess, as they lack a true lockdown wing defender to contain the best players in the league.
Rice-Leary: Utah’s being last in defensive rankings depends on which metrics are being used. That said, it’s partially a statistical hangover from Utah’s torpid start to the season; they have been playing much better basketball since Burke returned from his injury. But mostly it has to do with Utah’s focus on developing their young roster. Their starting five has at most three years of experience, with the obvious exception of Richard Jefferson.