Jazz-Clippers' game will have big implications, for now, in Western Conference race

Jazz-Clippers' game will have big implications, for now, in Western Conference race

SALT LAKE CITY — It was just a few days ago that the Utah Jazz faithful were getting excited about the possibility of their team being in position for a home-court advantage in the NBA playoffs, which is still a couple of months away.

The Jazz had moved up to the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference standings and some folks were starting to talk about the possibility of Utah catching Houston for the No. 3 spot in the West.

But after a couple of disheartening losses, a blown 21-point second-half lead at Dallas and a never-were-in-it loss at home to Boston Saturday night, the Jazz find themselves a lot closer to seventh place than to third place.

Saturday’s loss dropped the Jazz to 34-21, five full games behind the third-place Rockets (40-17). Meanwhile, the Jazz are just a half game ahead of the L.A. Clippers, who come to town Monday night, a game and a half ahead of Memphis and three games ahead of Oklahoma City.

The game with the Clippers (7 p.m. Vivint Arena) is a big one for both teams and could go a long ways toward determining home-court advantage in April. A win would put the Jazz up by a game and a half in the standings, while a Clippers’ win would put them ahead of the Jazz. The two teams still have two more games remaining, in Salt Lake on March 13 and at Lost Angeles on March 25.

The Clippers struggled after losing Chris Paul on Jan. 16 to a thumb injury that required surgery. They lost seven of their next nine before winning their last two games on the road against New York and Charlotte. They did get Blake Griffin back, after he missed 18 games with a knee injury, a week after losing Paul.

Griffin has averaged 24.1 points per game over the past eight games since returning and just under 10 rebounds per game. He’s made a difference in the lineup, but the Clippers miss Paul, who isn’t supposed to be back until mid-March.

One of the biggest matchups in Monday’s game will be at the center position between Utah’s Rudy Gobert and L.A.’s Deandre Jordan, who made the Western Conference All-Star team instead of the big Frenchman.

The two have nearly identical stats with Gobert averaging 13.0 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.51 blocks, while Jordan’s numbers are 12.2 ppg, 13.7 rpg and 1.72 bpg. Gobert shoots 64.5 percent from the field and 66 percent from the line, while Jordan averages 69.4 percent from the field and 51 percent from the line.

Other starters for the Clippers are expected to be J.J. Redick (15.3 ppg) and Austin Rivers (12.1 ppg) on the guardline and Luc Mbah a Moute (6.1 ppg) on the frontline with Jamal Crawford (12.6 ppg) and Raymond Felton (7.8 ppg) as the main men off the bench.

The Jazz, who will be missing Rodney Hood for the sixth straight game, will try to find a little more energy than they had Saturday night when coach Quin Snyder said his team didn’t play with enough “force” or “urgency.”

George Hill acknowledged the lack of urgency against Boston.

“We were definitely slow,” he said. “Normally five fouls in the first half means that we’re not being aggressive on the defensive end, playing our game.”

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JAZZ NOTES: Hood, who has missed the last five games with a right knee bone contusion, will miss Monday night’s game as well as Wednesday night’s game against Portland. Hood, who was hurt on Feb. 1 against Milwaukee, was re-examined Saturday night by the Jazz medical staff and “is expected to return to play following the All-Star break,” according to a Jazz press release. … Boston’s 59.2 field goal shooting was the highest by a Jazz opponent all season. … After playing Portland Wednesday at home, most of the Jazz players will get a week off for the All-Star break before returning to action on Feb. 24 at Milwaukee. Gordon Hayward will play in the All-Star Game, while Dante Exum and Trey Lyles will play in the Rising Stars Challenge in New Orleans next week.

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Published at Mon, 13 Feb 2017 01:41:00 +0000