The Clippers look to continue their strong start to the season in a game on the road against the Utah Jazz.
Where: Delta Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: 6:30 PM PT
How to Watch: KTLA, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Jazz: Talen Horton-Tucker – Jordan Clarkson – Lauri Markkanen – John Collins – Walker Kessler
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Robert Covington – Ivica Zubac
Clippers: Terance Mann Out (Ankle), Brandon Boston Jr. Out (Calf), Bones Hyland Questionable (Ankle)
The Big Picture
The Clippers had a fantastic Game One. Yes, they already couldn’t start their ideal starting lineup with Terace Mann out, but they played with fantastic energy and controlled the game from the opening tip. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard dominated without doing too much, Russell Westbrook brought tempo and passing, and Ivica Zubac and Robert Covington filled the gaps on defense and on the glass. The bench was a bit shakier, but Bones Hyland was once again a standout and nobody was outright awful. The Blazers aren’t good, but it was still a fun and optimism-inducing first game of the season.
The Jazz lost their first game badly, but were a solid team for most of last year before letting go of the rope at the end of the season. They’re in the enviable position of having a lot of talent without having an urgent rush to win games. While not incentivized to tank, there’s no reason for them to go all in on winning, and it seems likely they will trade more of their veterans as the season goes along. Right now, however, that’s all just a projection, and the Jazz are a tough out, with an All-Star in his prime in Lauri Markkanen and a solid supporting cast. This will be a much stiffer test for the Clippers than the young and tanking Blazers.
Guarding Clarkson: While Lauri Markkanen is the Jazz’s best player, the Clippers killer on the Jazz is Jordan Clarkson. He’s just one of those guys who never seems like he misses against the Clips, and is the kind of jittery quick guard the Clippers’ older roster frequently struggles with. The other thing is that while Lauri is very good, Kawhi, George, and Covington are all fairly good covers on him. Clarkson is someone who might normally be covered by Mann, so it will be interesting to see who takes him. My guess is Russ takes the assignment, but maybe George steps up to the plate to cover him with his size and length.
All Bench Units: Ty Lue said in preseason that he was going to stagger one of Kawhi Leonard or Paul George with the bench. While that was mostly the case, there were stretches where he went with a full bench unit. That Bones-Norm-KJ-Nico-Plumlee lineup did not look great, but I’d be fine with Ty trying it again. The season is long, the Clippers are old, and I’d prefer him start with playing too many guys than too few. That said, KJ seems like the obvious player to be cut if Ty wants to trim the rotation down, as he bricked a couple open threes and is the most redundant from a pure positional standpoint. We will see what Ty does against a stronger opponent in this one.
RoCo, Starting: This feels like a call for the Paul Rudd “Look at us, who would have thought” gif. Even though all indications from camp and preseason was that Marcus Morris would be out of the rotation, it was still shocking to see him sitting on the bench in street clothes as a healthy inactive with Covington in the starting group. RoCo did only go 1-4 from three, but he was taking shots when open, and was absolutely everywhere on defense, racking up 3 steals, a block, and 4 rebounds. There will be nights when the shots aren’t falling or he makes bad decisions on offense and it will be frustrating, but the defense is just so good. And with the Clippers’ emphasis on running, his insane ability to force turnovers is uniquely useful. Hopefully he can have the same impact against the Jazz.