Scuffling Jazz aim to bounce back vs. Clippers

Field Level Media

January 01, 2021 at 7:00 am.

The Utah Jazz face a tough task Friday night in Salt Lake City as they seek their first home win of the season while facing the Los Angeles Clippers.

Though the Clippers were the butt of many jokes around the sports world after losing by 51 points to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, they have bounced back with consecutive 23-point home victories over the Minnesota Timberwolves (124-101 on Tuesday) and the Portland Trail Blazers (128-105 on Wednesday).

More bad news for Utah, which lost 106-95 to the Phoenix Suns on New Year’s Eve after earning a one-point road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday: Kawhi Leonard is back for the Clippers.

Leonard led Los Angeles past the Trail Blazers with 28 points after missing the meltdown against the Mavericks and the game vs. the Timberwolves because of a mouth laceration that required eight stitches. He sported a protective face mask in the Portland game.

The Clippers have more weapons than just Leonard, of course. Paul George has led the team in scoring three times so far and had 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to support Leonard against Portland. Five Los Angeles players average double-figure scoring, and another four chip in between seven and eight points apiece each outing.

“Guys are playing hard, we’re locked in,” said Lou Williams, who scored 15 in the Clippers’ most recent win. “We know we have a lot of guys who are capable. We’re playing with trust.”

The Jazz also have a lot of capable guys, but they aren’t all clicking. Utah has struggled since opening the season with a 20-point win at Portland, dropping two of the past three games.

Normally boasting one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA, Utah has lost its only two games in Salt Lake City while winning both of its road contests.

“I guess the way I’d characterize it is we’ve had breakdowns, whether it be on offense, whether we’re not spaced. (And) defensively we’re over helping,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “There’s a number of situations where we need to be collectively better.”

Donovan Mitchell leads Utah with an average of 21 points per game, but he has yet to play consistently at an All-Star level this season. The Jazz really could have used Bojan Bogdanovic’s shooting against Phoenix, but the forward scored only three points, missing all five of his shots from the field.

“We just have to be better,” Snyder said. “We played really well against Portland, as well as we can play, and we haven’t played well since then. For us, there are certain things that we know that we need to do to be successful, and we need to do them. If we’re not playing to our strengths, it’s going to be difficult for us.”

The Friday contest will be Utah’s last chance in a while to win at home. After the game, the Jazz embark on a seven-game road trip that starts Sunday in San Antonio.

Utah won two of its three meetings with the Clippers in the abbreviated 2019-20 season. The Clippers have lost five straight in Salt Lake City, dating back to 2017.

The Jazz come into this matchup with a healthy roster, while the Clippers continue to be without Marcus Morris Sr., who is dealing with knee soreness.