Postgame Report: Jazz 99, Clippers 91 - 10/20/12

SALT LAKE CITY–The Clippers lost Saturday night’s preseason game against the Utah Jazz, 99-91, but based on what the team accomplished the result likely mattered very little.

Despite five rotation players, including regular starters Blake Griffin and Caron Butler, absent from the lineup, the Clippers managed to work through almost everything Head Coach Vinny Del Negro suggested during his pregame meeting with the media.

Del Negro said he wanted to get superstar Chris Paul more playing time to help build his point guard’s stamina heading into the regular season. Paul played a preseason-high 36 minutes, scoring 17 points with eight assists and four steals.

He wanted to get center DeAndre Jordan another opportunity to build on four strong exhibition games. And even though Jordan played much of the night in foul trouble, he still put in 13 points and nine rebounds. And, again, displayed a newfound agility in the post, spinning to his right hand for a couple of fourth-quarter baskets and flying in for a put-back dunk on a missed 3-pointer by Paul.  

For Jordan and Paul, it was also about regaining a bit of the timing they may have lost while Paul was recovering from offseason thumb surgery.

“Chris was hurt a little bit in training camp and some of the preseason, so that kind of messed the timing up a little bit,” Jordan said. “But Chris is a great point guard, so our timing’s going to click soon. We just need a couple games to feel each other out.”

Prior to the game, Del Negro said he also wanted to mix lineups throughout the night and give several reserves a chance at more time on the court. That’s where Matt Barnes comes in. The veteran forward, who started in place of Butler, was a revelation in transition offense and defense. He made several layups by beating his man down the floor, tied Mo Williams on a fast-break layup attempt to force a jump ball and blocked three shots.


“It’s impossible to keep Matt off the court. Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve never played with anybody who can run the court like him,” Paul said. “He can run the court and space and stuff like that.

“I missed him earlier in the game,” Paul added, referring to Barnes getting open by leaking out on the break. “And I told him I’m not used to playing with athletic wings like that who run the court.”

Barnes finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting and added seven rebounds. He was also a part of a small-ball lineup that featured Paul, Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Jordan.

Paul said he “loved” playing alongside Bledsoe and Crawford in the back court.

“I actually was the one that asked Coach if I could get in and play with them,” Paul said. “In the huddle I said, ‘We should be in all drags, whichever one of us gets the ball, the other ones space out and go.’ I think that’s going to be a weapon for us at times this year.”

After the game Jordan noted the importance of gaining chemistry with different lineups. “We played with a lot of different lineups, guys that we may not have played with in prior preseason games. It’s good for us to play off of different lineups and get to know each other’s games because it’s a long season. Some games some guys are going to go down, we’ve just got to get used to not having certain guys.”

Starting in place of Willie Green, who was given the night off, athletic second-year guard Travis Leslie made his first basket of the preseason, a baseline jumper from 16 feet. In 12 minutes, he finished with two points, two rebounds and two assists, including a well-executed bounce pass to a cutting Ronny Turiaf for a layup.

“It’s very hard [to get a feel] when you haven’t been playing,” Leslie said. “So to get out there and start, I just went out there and took advantage of my opportunity.”

NOTES

Lamar Odom and Grant Hill did not play for the Clippers (rest)… Jamaal Tinsley was out for Utah… The Jazz out-rebounded the Clippers, 50-35, including gaining an 18-4 advantage on the offensive glass… Turiaf led the Clippers with 10 boards… Former BYU star Trent Plaisted made his second appearance of the preseason, playing six minutes and grabbing one rebound. He had 13 guests in attendance for Saturday’s game… The Clippers were 20-of-35 from the free throw line (57.1%) compared to Utah’s 19-for-28 effort (67.9%). Bledsoe, who had 14 points off the bench, was 7-of-10, while Jordan made 3-of-8… The Clippers blocked 11 shots. Barnes and Ryan Hollins each had three, but Turiaf arguably had the best one, a swat of a Paul Millsap layup attempt that led to a basket on the other end for Barnes.