LOS ANGELES — A pair of teams on three-game winning streaks will meet at Staples Center on Thursday when the Utah Jazz visit the Los Angeles Clippers.
Only one team is feeling truly positive about the current state of affairs.
The Utah Jazz (10-11) just finished off home victories against the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls. The Jazz won those games by an average of 27.3 points, and could be ready to turn around its 1-7 road record.
The Los Angeles Clippers (8-11) are not quite feeling a healthy dose of momentum, however, even though they just defeated their rival, the Los Angeles Lakers. Forward Blake Griffin suffered a left knee sprain in the victory Monday and could be out for as much as two months.
It is yet another injury blow for the Clippers, who have already lost guard Patrick Beverley for the season after knee surgery. They are also without forward Danilo Gallinari (hip) and guard Milos Teodosic (foot).
With victories over the Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, the Clippers had to feel like their recent nine-game losing streak was a distant memory.
But Griffin’s injury returned all those feelings of woe.
Yet Clippers coach Doc Rivers was still trying to remain positive through it all.
“It’s not what we came into the season thinking would happen, but there is going to be something out of this that we find that is good — and I can’t tell you what it is,” Rivers said after practice Wednesday. “It may be Brice (Johnson), It may be Sam (Dekker), it may be (Montrezl Harrell), it may be someone. That’s the way it goes.”
The Jazz return to Los Angeles where it already lost to the Clippers this season. Griffin scored 22 points in pacing the Clippers to an 102-84 victory Oct. 24 that showcased L.A.’s early-season commitment to defense.
And while the Jazz won’t ease up on a depleted Clippers squad, Utah actually did offer some sympathy.
“It’s hard to watch because your heart goes out to guys,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell told the Salt Lake Tribune. “At the end of the day, being in the NBA is a brotherhood. We’re all brothers because there’s only 450 of us. So you never want to see anyone hurt, and you never wish injury on anyone.”
Without Beverley and Griffin, that defense the Clippers showed in October is far less intimidating. The Jazz failed to score 100 points in five of their first six games, including that loss to the Clippers, but Utah is now averaging 112.3 per game during its winning streak.
Utah has even done its recent winning with a short-handed roster of its own, so it knows as well as anybody that a reshuffled starting lineup, like the one the Clippers will present Thursday, can be dangerous.
The Jazz will be without Rudy Gobert (knee), Joe Johnson (wrist) and Dante Exum (shoulder).
Utah also may be without Rodney Hood and Raul Neto. Hood missed Tuesday’s game with left ankle soreness and is questionable while Neto is questionable with a sore left hamstring.
“Injuries are unfortunate,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “You hate to see that. I think how you handle those injuries, can your team get better and can you get guys back. That tells a lot about how your season could go.”