Jazz-Clippers Preview

The Utah Jazz are proving they belong among the Western

Conference elite. They haven’t resembled that when visiting the

lowly Los Angeles Clippers.

Coming off two of their more impressive performances of the

season, the Jazz look to avoid another letdown against the Clippers

at Staples Center on Sunday.

Utah (12-5) has won 12 of 15 after opening the season with

consecutive losses.

The club has turned up the defensive intensity and been very

effective from 3-point range during its current four-game win

streak. Utah has held opponents to 90.0 points per game while

shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the arc in that span.

The Jazz overcame a 19-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles

Lakers 102-96 on Friday in the first meeting between the teams

since Utah was swept out of the West semifinals last season. The

Jazz’s performance Friday, which was aided by going 7 for 17 from

long range, came two nights after beating New Orleans 105-87.

“It proved that we can play with the best of them,” said center

Al Jefferson, who scored 20 points with eight rebounds against the

Lakers after getting 23 and 10, respectively, versus the

Hornets.

Judging by each team’s record this season, Utah’s momentum

wouldn’t appear to be in much danger against the Clippers (3-14).

The Jazz beat Los Angeles 109-107 in double overtime at home on

Nov. 6, improving to 18-8 in the last 26 meetings. However, all of

those defeats have come in the most recent 13 visits to Staples

Center, and by an average of 12.7 points.

Deron Williams struggled with his shot in two road meetings

against the Clippers last season, scoring 13 points in each contest

while making 9 of 28 from the field and totaling 24 assists.

The All-Star guard didn’t have much trouble against the Clippers

earlier this month, scoring 30 points. He’s also entering this

matchup with some momentum, shooting 19 of 32 to total 55 points,

23 assists and seven steals over the last two games.

Jefferson, acquired in a trade from Minnesota during the summer,

could help the Jazz avoid another letdown at Staples Center. He’s

averaging 22.0 points and 12.2 rebounds in his last five road

matchups against Los Angeles.

Jefferson scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards Nov. 6.

Returning home may have the Clippers feeling slightly

better.

They’re 3-6 as hosts, compared to 0-8 on the road. Los Angeles’

road struggles showed few signs of slowing Friday, as it lost

116-108 to Phoenix while committing 16 turnovers.

The Clippers rank near the bottom of the league with 16.6

turnovers per game.

Guard Eric Gordon and forward-center Blake Griffin continue to

be bright spots, as the Clippers’ top scorers with averages of 24.5

points and 19.3, respectively.

Gordon is averaging 29.0 points over the last three games after

scoring a season-high 32 against the Suns. He had 27 points in Utah

earlier this month, while Griffin was held to 16 while collecting

17 rebounds.

Griffin, the team leader with 11.4 boards per game, continues to

be a force with averages of 28.3 points and 14.3 rebounds over the

last four games.