The Clippers begin the second half of their eight-game preseason schedule Saturday as they travel to the Energy Solutions Arena for part two of their home-and-home series against the Utah Jazz.
The Clippers pulled out the first game in the series with a 96-94 victory Wednesday night at Staples Center and, more importantly, continued to get solid production from their starting front court.
Blake Griffin had his best scoring game of the preseason, putting up 23 points on 11-for-20 shooting with five rebounds, five assists and five steals in 28 minutes. Since scoring just six points in the first preseason game against the Denver Nuggets, Griffin is averaging a shade over 18 points per game.
|UPDATE: GRIFFIN, GREEN AND BUTLER TO SIT OUT SATURDAY|
DeAndre Jordan continued to build on his outstanding preseason, scoring 11 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, 10 of them in the third quarter in which the Clippers scored 34 points.
Chris Paul played his second preseason game on his journey to get back into game shape after sitting out while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb as he played 25 minutes. His game-high nine assists illustrated how masterful Paul is at running the Clippers offense.
Jamal Crawford continued to put up numbers off the bench with 18 points and leads the team this preseason with a 17.0 points-per-game average and Ryan Hollins made his case to be the backup center, protecting the rim with five blocked shots, including blocking a game-tying layup attempt by former Clippers guard Randy Foye in the final seconds.
On Saturday expect Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro to continue building towards the regular season, using a variety of lineups and substitution patterns.
"We'll go out there have a good effort, get the guys' chemistry down as much as possible, and just manage the minutes," Del Negro said.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Hostile Territory. This will be the Clippers first true away game this preseason and they drew one of the toughest venues in the NBA. The Jazz faithful have earned a reputation of being one of the loudest fan bases in the league, which should give the Clippers a measuring stick on what to expect in hostile territory this season.
Salt Lake City has been a particularly challenging place for the Clippers. They lost 42 of 43 games in Utah dating back to 1990, and endured a 16-game losing streak until a 107-105 win on Feb. 1, 2012.
Focus on Defense. The Clippers emphasized the importance of improving their team defense this season and the philosophy appears to have stuck. The Clippers have held their opponents to 40% shooting in their last three games.
On Thursday small forward Caron Butler said the team’s identity is more “defensive oriented” than last year.
“That’s an area where we had to get a lot better,” Butler added. “I thought guys came in in great shape and are able to play so many positions and are moving fast on the perimeter, helping Blake and DeAndre out a lot. The more you contain the first and second dribble, it gives them an opportunity with their athleticism to come over and help and alter a lot of shots.”
The Calm before the Storm. Since scoring 25 points in the Clippers first preseason game against the Nuggets in Las Vegas, Eric Bledsoe has scored a combined 23 points in the last three games, going 9-for-24 from the field. But his 11 points Wednesday may be a sign that the young guard is finding his offense again.
On Saturday, Bledsoe will matchup with former teammates Mo Williams, who is expected to play after sitting out the previous two games with a strained right abductor, and Randy Foye. In Wednesday’s matchup Foye played point guard at times in relief of starter Jamaal Tinsley.
Lamar Odom and Grant Hill are not expected to play Saturday, Del Negro said... The Jazz cut Trey Gilder and Brian Butch Thursday, according to the Desert News. Their roster stands at 17 players… Jordan is fifth in the NBA in rebounding this preseason, hauling in 8.8 boards per game… Crawford leads the Western Conference in scoring with 17.0 points per game this preseason… Foye’s 17 points were the most he’s scored since he dropped 28 against the Knicks on April 25, 2012… The Clippers play their next two games at home before closing out the preseason schedule in Denver on October 25.