GAMEDAY REPORT: CLIPPERS VS. JAZZ - 10/12/13

Preseason Game #2 | October 12, 2013
EnergySolutions Arena | Salt Lake City, UT

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SALT LAKE CITY – When Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said the team’s offense was “behind” its defense a few days ago he could hardly stress enough how unconcerned he was.

In Saturday night’s 106-74 preseason win over the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena, there were enough glimpses of what the offense might look like when the games count to show why.

The Clippers (2-0) dominated the young Jazz (1-2), playing their second game in as many nights, for most of the first three periods. They had a defensive identity, fueled by DeAndre Jordan’s seven rebounds and six blocked shots, and a much-improved rhythm to their offense.

“It looked real good,” said Byron Mullens, who scored a game-high 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including three 3-pointers. “We’ve still got some work to do as far as getting our plays settled in and everyone remembering them. But we’ve got six more games in the preseason so we’ll get it. And our defense was really gelling in the first half. [The Jazz] had 31 points at halftime. You can’t ask for much more than that. That’s pretty good. We’ll take that.”

Chris Paul and Darren Collison combined for 20 of the Clippers’ 29 assists. They made 11 3-pointers and in addition to Mullens’ output got seven points from Antawn Jamison, nine from Willie Green, and 14 from Jordan.

Blake Griffin, who played despite a bone bruise in his left knee, added 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including three shots from outside of 20 feet, and four rebounds in 18:10. Less than two minutes into the game Griffin sustained a right ankle sprain on a 7-foot left-handed jump hook. He had the ankle re-taped and returned in the second quarter.

But it was hardly about individual statistics, particularly in a game just two weeks into October.

The Clippers converted 11 dunks or layups in the first half, most of which came in half-court sets. The misdirection and movement that have characterized Associate Head Coach Alvin Gentry’s system were on full display.

“Alvin’s doing a great job and timing [has been better],” Rivers said. “Our timing was so bad in the Portland game, but we didn’t have a lot in. We started putting stuff in and guys now know what they’re looking for. That really helps and our spacing was terrific.”

On one possession, Paul dribbled to the right wing, Jordan dove. Griffin trailed behind Jordan, feigned a curl and set a ball screen for Paul. As Paul came around the pick, Griffin rolled right and as the defense diverted their attention to Griffin, Jared Dudley emerged at the 3-point line for an open jumper.

The play was one of Paul’s seven first-half assists. The Clippers had 18 as a team in the first 24 minutes. There was fluidity and improved timing. It seemed whomever was supposed to be open was, a lot.

“I was really happy offensively,” Rivers said. “The ball was moving. We were executing. It wasn’t like we scored out of random. We scored out of sets tonight. That’s a good step for us.”

Defensively, the Clippers flourished. They have allowed 81 points or fewer and forced 18 turnovers or more in back-to-back games and, again, it was Jordan settling in as the team’s anchor. He was more vocal and more forceful. He had one stretch of three Jazz possessions where he stifled a Gordon Hayward fast-break layup attempt, rejected an Enes Kanter layup after allowing an offensive rebound and then rejected a face-up jumper by Kanter on the baseline.

Collison, who led the team in minutes with 29 and pulled down five rebounds to along with nine points and 10 assists, thinks the defense will continue to be a catalyst for the Clippers. And while it may still be ahead of the offense, that’s not necessarily a negative.

“That’s kind of a good thing,” Collison said. “Early on in the preseason you don’t expect everyone to be at their best offensive-wise because there are so many new faces. And at the same time you’d rather have what you have on defense then on offense at this point.”

NOTES

Former BYU star Brandon Davies had more than 20 guests in attendance. He scored nine points in 16 minutes and connected on three shots from long distance… Matt Barnes (left calf), Reggie Bullock (right knee) and J.J. Redick (left quad) did not play… Richard Jefferson led the Jazz with 13 points off the bench… Rookie Trey Burke scored two points with four assists and a pair of turnovers, but left the game in the first half with a fractured right index finger… Jordan went 2-for-3 from the foul line. He is now 6-for-8 in the preseason… The Clippers are 9-3 in 12 preseason games since Paul was acquired… At one point in the second half, L.A. led by as many as 32 points…

QUOTES

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on overall performance:
“It’s funny, tonight our defense, [DeAndre Jordan] alone, but everybody , they’re just getting more confidence. As funny as it sounds you grow confidence in defense as well, not just offense. And you could hear our guys are talking on defense and that gives you a lot of confidence. And that’s what brings teams together.”
Byron Mullens on his performance:
“I think tonight really started on the defensive side. The first game I got split a couple of times and I worked hard on that this week in practice with my guys: [Darren Collison], Chris [Paul], [DeAndre Jordan] everybody really. Everyone was just kind of giving me the confidence that I need.”
Darren Collison on the potential of the team’s bench:
“Me, Byron, Antawn [Jamison], Jamal [Crawford], we’ve never really played together before, so it’s going to take some time. But we already know that once we start playing well together we should be a dang good second unit.”
Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin on what rookie point guard Trey Burke can learn from playing against Chris Paul:
“So many lessons you can learn from an experienced guy like Chris. Trey’s getting lessons every night. Number one, you have to be ready. [He can learn] how [Paul] prepares himself, how he reads the court, reads situations on the floor and controls the tempo of the game while he’s able to score.”
Brandon Davies on what was going through his mind as he approached the scorer’s table in the third quarter to make his first appearance in front of several friends and family members:
“I was just kind of running through plays and kind of just trying to make sure I’ve got them right and making sure I had a good effort defensively. Other than that I was excited to get in and excited to play, but at the same time in the back of mind I knew I had a job to do.”

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PREGAME REPORT

SALT LAKE CITY – Progress.

In the preseason that is the only significant measure of success, particularly with seven games remaining and a group that consists of a new coaching staff and several new members of the roster.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers says he is not focused on any specific facet of the team, or any individual for that matter, as the Clippers begin a three-game road swing Saturday night against the Jazz (1-1). More so, Rivers is looking at the big picture.

“Progress happens,” he said prior to practice Friday. “We’re picking up stuff and you should every day. It just takes time. We’re getting it. Every practice we get a little bit better and that’s what we want to do. We want to spike to the first game. After that you want to keep getting better through the season.”

From Utah, the Clippers (1-0) head to Sacramento and Phoenix before returning home to play the Portland Trail Blazers in their preseason home opener in a week. The three-straight road games should offer more time to coalesce and simulate a regular-season trip. In a way, it’s a head start for a team expected to have five first-time Clippers in its 10-man rotation.

“I think it’s good because it’s game-like,” said forward Jared Dudley, who is one of the aforementioned five newcomers. “You’re going to have three games in four nights like that. Even in preseason people will get their minutes somewhat. It’s just good for us to keep it going. You’re out there battling each other sometimes it’s good to play against other people. For us, it’s a chance to just get our timing down a little better.”

It is the second preseason in a row the Clippers will play the Jazz, who return home after Friday’s loss in Boise, Idaho, at EnergySolutions Arena. They lost 99-91 there in October last year.

THINGS TO WATCH

1. Managing bumps and bruises. Blake Griffin returned to practice Friday after sitting out Thursday with a bruised left kneecap. But the Clippers are still managing a number of minor injuries. Rookie Reggie Bullock (sore right knee), Matt Barnes (sore left calf) and J.J. Redick (left thigh contusion) are not expected to play Saturday. Griffin is day-to-day.

Rivers said the trio of Bullock, Barnes and Redick are unlikely to play during the trip, something that has an impact on what the Clippers are trying to accomplish in terms of putting in plays, timing and building chemistry.

“It affects a lot, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “If we were together three or four years then it wouldn’t be a concern. But not having been together and key guys missing a lot, that hurts you. There’s no doubt Alvin and I have definitely slowed on what we’re putting in. We don’t want to put some movement plays that J.J. would use and he’s not there. There’s no reason to do that. I’m hoping we can catch up when they come back but we’ll see.”

The Jazz come into Saturday’s game relatively healthy. Veteran Richard Jefferson did not play in Friday’s game against the Blazers, but the Salt Lake Tribune reported it was Head Coach Tyrone Corbin’s decision to avoid using Jefferson, 33, in back-to-back games. Forward Marvin Williams is out as he continues rehab from surgery on his right Achilles tendon.

2. Defense, times two. Rivers was pleased with the team’s defense and it will continue to be a point of emphasis for the Clippers in Utah where they will contend with a youthful Jazz team with a potent frontline of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Corbin, according to the Deseret News, has also pledged a renewed defensive focus this season in Utah. Saturday could be as much about ironing out the specifics on the defensive end as anything.

3. Know your role. Part of the preseason will about establishing roles. Saturday will be the second opportunity for the Clippers, and third for the Jazz, to do that. Rivers has said that veteran teams tend to figure out their roles without much guidance, a sentiment that Dudley echoed Friday.

“When you have to tell someone that they’re doing too much, usually they don’t know their role,” Dudley said. “All the good teams, like the one year when I went to the Western Conference Finals, you never have to say anything. And I think it’s very similar here. For the most part, we know.”

NOTES

It is the ninth time the Jazz and Clippers have met in the preseason. They split the previous eight matchups including last season’s home-and-home series in October… During the 2012-13 regular season the Clippers swept the Jazz for the first time since moving to Los Angeles… Out of Utah’s 20-man training camp roster, 12 players have three years of NBA experience or less, including five of their returning players from a season ago… The Clippers are 8-3 in their last 11 preseason games… Reserve point guard John Lucas III scored a team-high 16 points in Utah’s 101-78 win over Golden State Tuesday in their preseason opener and Gordon Hayward scored 20 points in their 96-86 loss three days later… Clippers rookie forward Brandon Davies grew up in Provo, about 45 miles north of Salt Lake City…

THEY SAID IT

Doc Rivers: “D.J. (DeAndre Jordan), forget that he’s playing great, I’ve been amazed at how quickly he’s picking up the lingo, the talk. That position is the key position for doing that because they’re the Mike Singletary. They’re calling out the coverages.”

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