The Utah Jazz
Last night, the Utah Jazz (12-8) were defeated at home by an evolving Los Angeles Clippers (13-6) team led by the exploits of Chris Paul in the fourth quarter. CP3 was fantastic throughout the game but especially in the fourth quarter, as he scored 12 of his 34 points. He essentially took the bull by the horns and steered him in the direction of his liking and rode it to victory.
Before his fourth quarter scoring assault, Paul was quite content with taking open shots without forcing the issue, but mostly he got his teammates involved with a series of exquisite lob passes that set the tone early in the game.
We could continue to discuss CP3’s exploits from last night, but there is also another side to the coin to consider: the Jazz’s performance.
Indeed, Utah hung in the game thanks in large part to their home crowd that seemed to feed them with the energy to make a multitude of big effort plays. It helped the Jazz get out in transition and score 25 fast break points and also play with a tough physical edge, especially in the second half.
The perimeter players struggled for the most part, but the big men were terrific. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors helped Tyrone Corbin’s unit score an impressive 54 points in the paint.
Jefferson spent most of the night posting up DeAndre Jordan and going to a right-handed floater/hook shot that seemed to confuse the Clippers starting center. By the fourth quarter Jordan finally figured out that if he sat on Jefferson’s right hand he would be able to limit his effectiveness and did just that. Nonetheless, the Jazz’s starting center was a beast on the block, going for 27 points and 12 rebounds on 12-for-20 shooting.
Millsap on the other hand had a rather quiet night by his standards, putting up 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting; but his four offensive rebounds allowed him to get a few easy looks right at the rim.
Favors was impressive in his own right, scoring 14 points in a mere 18 minutes, on 4-of-7 shooting from the field. He was able to get position down low and overpower defenders for looks right at the rim.
Needless to say, when the Jazz stroll into Oracle Arena tonight to take on the Golden State Warriors (7-12), they will try to exploit the foul prone Andris Biedrins with Jefferson. Given that the Latvian center has been unable to avoid biting on pump fakes, it stands to reason that Jefferson should have a fairly big scoring night against the Warriors center.
The Millsap-Lee matchup should prove to be a quite interesting one. Millsap will have the strength advantage and thus should be able to muscle the Florida product for a few points in the post up game; but then again Millsap is much more comfortable shooting midrange jumpers; which could be a win for the Warriors defense. With that said, Lee will have to try to be physical against the opposing power forward in order to make sure he keeps him off the boards and doesn’t allow him to get second chance points.
Ever since Kwame Brown went down, Dominic McGuire has been the Dubs’ best big man off the bench and he will have to continue to do so for the Warriors to be victorious tonight. Indeed, if he can limit the production of the Jazz’ second unit frontcourt players, it should go a long way towards determining which team is victorious.
It’s worth mentioning that as good as the Jazz frontcourt is on offense, they surrendered 52 points in the paint against the Clippers. Indeed, Jordan and Griffin were more than happy to get a few attempts right at the rim thanks in large part to the wizardry of Paul with the ball, but players such Mo Williams, Chauncey Billups and Randy Foye were able to beat their defenders off the dribble and get inside the paint for some high percentage shots.
In addition, Tyrone Corbin allowed Blake Griffin to operate on the low block without much threat of a double team down there. This is relevant for the Warriors because David Lee is a far better post up player than Griffin at this point in his career. Hence, Mark Jackson will probably throw the ball into Lee on the left block and let him operate against a Jazz frontline not exactly known for their ability to defend the paint.
With that said, the Golden State Warriors’ biggest advantage will be their backcourt. Although they essentially took the night off against the Sacramento Kings, one would think that their subpar effort in those games will fuel them to come out firing away and to extract some revenge against a Jazz team that defeated them at Oracle earlier this season.
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