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Jazz-Clippers figures to be low-scoring affair
LOS ANGELES -- In a league that is now focused on relentless offense, the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers will meet Tuesday in a game that is likely to be a throwback of sorts.
The clubs own two of the better defenses in the NBA, and they will exercise their battle of wills Tuesday at Staples Center. The Clippers are allowing 90 points per game, tops in the league, while Utah is fourth at 94.3 points allowed per game.
Los Angeles also sports the league's best point differential at plus-29.
In the Jazz, the Clippers will be facing their toughest challenge yet. The Clippers (2-0) humbled the cross-town Los Angeles Lakers 108-92 in their season opener last week, and then topped that Saturday with a 130-88 victory over the Suns that marked the end of Earl Watson's tenure as Phoenix head coach just three games into the season.
The Jazz (2-1) sandwiched two home victories around a heartbreaking 100-97 loss at Minnesota on Friday. The defeat to the Timberwolves was the only time Utah gave up triple-digit points.
"We could see that coming," Utah forward Thabo Sefolosha said of the team's effective defense, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "That's our strength. We're going to play to our strength. The way we communicate and get connected (is) our team defense."
So much for the Jazz struggling after the departure of forward Gordon Hayward. In defeating the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz showed that they can still compete with teams expected to push for a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
The Clippers' cohesion has been somewhat surprising as well, considering that they replaced nine players on their roster this season. However, mainstays Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are leading the way, as expected.
Griffin has been getting it done on both offense and defense, leading the NBA in defensive win shares (0.143) while scoring 29 points per game. After just one home game, Clippers fans filled Staples Center with chants of "MVP" when Griffin stepped to the free-throw line in the second half Saturday.
"Everything that we messed up on we corrected, which is good," Griffin said after the rout of Phoenix. "But ultimately you want to have to not correct anything at all, which is a little unrealistic. But I like the way we have had each other's backs and made adjustments in game ... not just halftime in game but actual timeouts and all that, so it is promising."
Neither the Lakers nor the Suns had the ability to harass Griffin and Jordan inside as the Jazz can with a trio of center Rudy Gobert, forward/center Derrick Favors and forward Ekpe Udoh. On Saturday, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George combined for 54 points against Utah, while no other Thunder player scored in double digits.
Gobert, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio lead the Jazz in scoring, each averaging 14.7 points per game. Rubio is contributing 8.3 assists per game, while Gobert is averaging 12 rebounds.
Not only are Griffin and Jordan a force inside defensively for the Clippers, but guards Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers also make life difficult for opposing guards.
"I think we have the ability to be the best defensive duo in the league," Rivers said about himself and Beverley.
The Clippers' backcourt will be a little thin Tuesday as rookie point guard Milos Teodosic will be out indefinitely due to a plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Jazz guard/forward Rodney Hood is questionable because of a calf injury, although he did participate in parts of practice Monday.
Updated October 24, 2017