In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.
Gordon Hayward v Eric Gordon
Will this matchup determine the outcome of the game? No. Yet this is an important matchup to watch. Eric Gordon is the kind of player that the Jazz want Gordon Hayward to emulate. Though many people like to say Hayward is a poor man’s Korver, he might just be Korver 3.0 (you see what I did there? I skipped a generation and went straight to the 3.0). Eric Gordon is a great 3 point shooter and gets to the charity stripe often. Korver is a spot-up shooter who doesn’t draw a lot of fouls. What use is a great free throw shooter if he never gets to the line? We saw glimpses of Hayward’s ability to get to the line in the Jazz’s first preseason game against L.A. Even though Gordon was a revelation during the FIBA championships this summer, Hayward’s size and exception ball handling skills for his position mean his upside is, well, ridiculous. Hayward is big for the SG position at 6’9″. Eric Gordon is undersized for a SG at 6’3″. So watch Eric Gordon during this game and you’ll get a glimpse of what Gordon Hayward can be.
Advantage: Eric Gordon
Paul Millsap v Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin is what you get if you were to pour super soldier serum into Paul Millsap’s blood stream. He does everything Paul Millsap does but a little better. You know that part at the end of The Incredible Hulk (The good one) where Abomination, an even stronger incarnation of The Hulk, and the Hulk fight? It’s an epic battle of extreme proportions. That will be the Millsap vs. Blake Griffin matchup. Griffin is everything Paul is – just better and beast-ier. (If you enjoyed my hyperbole, you’ll love the fantastic work by JE Skeets: “Makes omelets like a young Jacques Pépin, only fluffier.”
Millsap has never been one to back down so look forward to these two battling it out for rebounds and fighting for position on the low block.
Advantage: Who cares?! This is going to be awesome!
Utah leads the series 94-59; 3-1 last season.
The Jazz may have beaten the Clippers 3 out of 4 times last year but this paragraph from a recap of their loss the Clippers late in the season that encapsulates the Jazz’s entire season:
The Jazz (38-22) have lost seven games this season by margins of four points or less. Had they won those games, they would be only one game behind the Lakers for the Western Conference lead — and just 2½ behind Cleveland for the NBA’s best record. Instead, they find themselves trying to hang onto fourth place and secure home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
The Jazz average 104.7 points a game against the Clippers. 4th most out of any team the Jazz play against.
Vinny Del Negro steps in as the Clippers’ 14th coach since Jerry Sloan began his tenure with the Utah Jazz.
If this were any other team not named the Clippers I’d be predicting them to be a 50 win team. Look at their starting five: Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Ryan Gomes, Blake Griffin, and Chris Kaman. It’s a solid starting five! In fact, it’s a really good starting five. With shaky seasons possible from Phoenix and Denver, it’s not unreasonable to imagine the Clippers playing in the postseason again. But this is the Clippers. If they can forget about the name that is stitched on the front of their jerseys for 82 games, get man-child play from Griffin, and if Baron Davis can play with just a hair bigger heart than the Grinch then this is a playoff contender and a team that will be a tough matchup in the playoffs.