Clippers-Jazz face off with playoff implications
SALT LAKE CITY — Major playoff seeding implications are in play for both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz when the two teams meet for the third time this season.
One game separates the two teams in the Western Conference standings. Monday’s game at Vivant Smart Home Arena will offer a chance for the Clippers to notch their third victory over Utah this season. It’s also an opportunity to wrap up a critical tiebreaker as both teams push for a top-four seed.
Los Angeles (40-26) is gaining serious ground with stars like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin healthy again. The Clippers won for the fourth time in five games on Saturday by beating Philadelphia 112-100. Paul scored a season-high 30 points for Los Angeles. DeAndre Jordan chipped in 19 points and 20 rebounds for his 29th double-double of the season.
The Clippers scored 37 points in the fourth quarter against the Sixers and used a 10-0 run to open the quarter to take the lead for good.
“We finally got some stops,” Paul said after the game, noting Los Angeles gave Philadelphia some early wide-open shots. “Every night we go into the game thinking defense first.”
Los Angeles has allowed just 97.8 points per game over its last four victories. The Clippers usually present a much tougher challenge on offense for most opponents. Los Angeles ranks seventh in the NBA in scoring (107.8 points per game) and fifth in field goal shooting percentage (46.9) and 3-point shooting percentage (37.5).
It has certainly been a challenging matchup for the Jazz. In its previous two losses to the Clippers this season, Utah has averaged just 73.5 points and been outscored by an average of 14.5 points. In both games, the Jazz struggled to find an offensive rhythm and produced their worst offensive performance of the season in the most recent matchup — an 88-72 loss on February 13.
Utah (41-25) can’t afford to lose another tiebreaker for a team directly competing with it for playoff seeding. The Jazz had that happen on Saturday when a 112-104 loss to Oklahoma City handed the Thunder a 3-1 regular season series win over Utah.
Dante Exum led the Jazz with 22 points while Alec Burks added 21 points. Oklahoma City led by as many as 23 points before Utah whittled it to seven points late in the fourth quarter. The bench led the comeback effort after a dismal performance from the starters.
None of the Utah starters scored in double figures. Utah coach Quin Snyder praised his bench for not throwing in the towel in garbage time.
“The guys came in and competed,” Snyder said. “And that’s really all you want is for them to come in and compete. Usually when you do that, you can make some good things happen.”
Utah was affected by absence of starting center Rudy Gobert and starting power forward Derrick Favors. Gobert sat out with leg soreness while Favors was sidelined with knee soreness. For Gobert, it was his first injury-related absence of the season. Favors has missed 18 games this season because of knee problems.