It's never easy to win a game against one of the league's best teams, let alone when your team is without its two best players. That's the challenge the LA Clippers faced on Wednesday night when they took on the Utah Jazz without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the contest ended how you might have anticipated. The Clippers fought as hard as possible but ultimately couldn't overcome Utah's talent in a 114-96 loss.
The Clippers were in control for much of the first half, building their lead as high as six points on multiple occasions. The game swung back and forth like that for some time — neither team could build a large enough lead to pull away from the other, and LA seemed to benefit from that. Eventually, the Clippers were able to take a small lead into the break.
That pattern continued into the third quarter as the Clippers fought to hang on to their narrow lead. Eventually, though, the Jazz picked up some momentum near the end of the third quarter and took a six-point lead of their own into the final frame.
Utah outscored LA by 12 points the rest of the way, giving them another double-digit victory. The Clippers simply looked like they ran out of gas down the stretch, and the team struggled to create on offense. Lou Williams was one of the only players who really got things going on that end, but even he finished the game with 16 points and six assists on just 33% shooting from the field.
The silver lining here is that LA's coaching staff will pick up on some things that could've been executed better and make adjustments for Friday, when the Clippers will host the Jazz for the second consecutive game. For now, though, let's focus on some things that stuck out to us.
Amir Coffey Stays Hot
The Clippers have had to embrace a "next man up" mentality as of late in the absence of their stars, and no player has done so more than Amir Coffey. This time last week, the once-undrafted swingman was starting for the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario in the G League bubble. Now, he's been asked to come off the bench for a title contender in the NBA — and he's handled the assignment with ease.
The 23-year-old has impressed in each of his last two appearances, scoring 15 against the Miami Heat on Monday and 13 against the Jazz. Both times, Coffey had an efficient night from beyond the arc. He's now hit seven of his last nine attempts from three-point range, displaying a sort of confidence and consistency that was previously unseen.
It's hard to say if Coffey will remain with the Clippers or be sent back down the G League once LA is healthy again — even he told reporters that he isn't sure what the plan is — but if he continues to convert from deep and play with effort on defense, there will be a spot on the roster for him.
Clippers Can't Afford to Make Mistakes in Absence of Stars
It rarely feels like the Clippers are truly out of a game when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are on the floor. Both players are capable of taking control at a moment's notice, and with their ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, no lead ever really feels like it's too large to overcome — even when the Clippers haven't played a perfect game.
That isn't the case when they're inactive.
The Utah Jazz deserve plenty of credit for the way they closed out Wednesday night's contest, but the Clippers also made far too many mistakes to overcome.
The 18 turnovers are a start, which the Jazz turned into 21 points. LA might've been able to survive that and likely would've had a cleaner game with Leonard and/or George on the floor, but the team has largely been unable to string together stops or go on lengthy runs in their absence.
Missed free throws are another. LA connected on just 11 of its 17 attempts against Utah, which is well below their season average in terms of efficiency. The contest still wouldn't have been close had they made more of them, but the main point here is that the team's margin for error shrinks significantly when Leonard and George are out.
If the two can't suit up for Friday's game, the Clippers will need to cut back on their mistakes if they plan on upsetting the Jazz.
Patrick Beverley's Hustle Stands Out
There are few players in the league like Patrick Beverley. The scrappy, six-foot-tall guard always seems to succeed despite his size, and he finds a way to impact each and every game.
Beverley had another strong outing against the Jazz, recording eight points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 23 minutes of action. He made all three of his shots, committed just one turnover and was a -2 in an 18-point loss.
Many of his teammates have said his style of play is contagious, referring to the way in which he approaches each game. It doesn't matter whether they're playing the league's best team or the league's worst — Beverley is going to give his all and do his best to impact the game in as many ways as possible.
It pays to have guys like that on the roster, and the Clippers will continue to look to him to provide that boost as the team works to get all of its players back on the floor.