Without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, Clippers are outmanned by streaking Jazz

Los Angeles, CA, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) I surrounded by Clippers defenders in the second half at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is surrounded by Clippers defenders within the second half at Staples Center on Wednesday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

At first look, the mismatch couldn’t have been extra clear.

Taking a cross close to the left block early in Wednesday’s first quarter, Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic backed into Lou Williams, a Clippers guard who was three years older, seven inches shorter and has by no means carried the status of a stingy defender.

But the straightforward basket by no means got here. Williams waited for Bogdanovic’s third dribble, then poked away a steal and went for a layup.

NBA video games are received over 48 minutes, not 10-second stretches, but the second encapsulated an evening inside Staples Center when Utah’s apparent mismatch over a Clippers workforce lacking three starters plus one reserve took longer to materialize than ever suspected at first look

Without the injured Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Nicolas Batum or Luke Kennard, the strolling wounded Clippers led by one after the primary quarter, 5 at halftime and trailed by simply six after three quarters. What appeared an inevitable Jazz victory wasn’t secured till late within the fourth quarter after a 27-10 Utah run turned a 114-96 victory.

Lou Williams scored a game-high 16 factors for the Clippers whereas Donovan Mitchell scored 24 to steer Utah.

Five takeaways from Utah’s 20th victory in its final 21 video games, a recreation that ended the Clippers’ four-game profitable streak:

1. Disrupting the Jazz

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue didn’t see this recreation as a litmus check for how his workforce stacked up towards the Western Conference’s high workforce. The absences of three starters made that time moot. He did see it, nevertheless, as one other alternative to gauge his workforce’s mettle, two nights after beating Miami with out 4 starters. Could they summon an analogous grit? “We know they’re one of the best workforce record-wise, however you recognize that is not gonna cease us from enjoying,” Lue mentioned earlier than tipoff.

The Clippers disrupted the consolation of Utah — which performed with out Mike Conley — for a primary half by largely taking away their three-point alternatives. The Jazz, who try a league-leading 42 three-pointers this season, took 17 within the first half, making solely 5.

“I assume it’s a recreation, form of like final recreation, to work on our workforce, work on all people’s confidence, see the place we’re at, on the finish of the day, on the finish of the sport and be pleased with our effort,” guard Terance Mann mentioned.

2. Disruptor in chief

One of the chief causes behind the Clippers’ feisty first half was the depth of Patrick Beverley. His block of Mitchell within the first quarter was simply one in all a number of cases the place Beverley stored the younger star off-balance together with his effort defensively. Beverley’s numbers — eight factors, 4 rebounds, two assists— didn’t do his influence justice.

3. Good information/dangerous information

For the Clippers, there are two ways to have a look at this recreation. Encouragement that they’d hung near the NBA’s hottest workforce with out enjoying flawless basketball? Or disappointment that what was Utah’s 18th double-digit victory in its final 21 video games have been expensive, avoidable errors that stored the Clippers from claiming what would have been their finest victory of the season?

“You received to care for the ball and take pictures,” Lue mentioned of his workforce’s 18 turnovers. “I simply thought Lou was just a little out of fuel tonight. He’s the man who’s been making it go for us. But can’t fault our effort or our competing.”

4. Big distinction

The Clippers (21-9) had no reply for the scale of Jazz middle Rudy Gobert, the early favourite for the league’s defensive participant of the yr. The middle was the one Jazz starter within the first half with a constructive plus/minus. He’d end plus-25 and is now the NBA’s season chief in plus/minus. Gobert scored 23 factors to go together with 20 rebounds however it was the way in which he froze the Clippers driving into the paint that altered not solely pictures however the Clippers’ means to create a much bigger lead than six. When he sat, the Clippers attacked the rim; however finally, his protection, together with the strain Utah’s drives placed on defenders attempting to maintain Gobert away from put-backs and lobs, cracked the Clippers’ possibilities of an upset.

“He’s only a large physique and typically it’s powerful to restrict what he can do,” Amir Coffey mentioned.

5. Next males up

Lue known as Kennard’s late scratch due to a sore proper knee “just a little little bit of a shock.” Forward Nicolas Batum, in the meantime, is in concussion protocol and his return to motion is unclear, Lue mentioned; NBA concussion protocols doesn’t outline a timetable for how lengthy a participant can take earlier than returning. Yet Batum felt wholesome sufficient to observe from the sideline inside an area with a loud musical soundtrack, which might be taken as an encouraging signal. Also watching from the sideline was Leonard, who spent the break between the third and fourth quarters conferring with Clippers coaches inside their huddle. The veterans spent timeouts speaking with their teammates.

“I feel that’s simply guys being extra snug with one another,” Mann mentioned. “Being in a position to discuss to one another, discuss issues out when guys make errors, that simply occurs with time.”

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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