The Clippers are coming off one of their more impressive wins of the season, and their reward is another Western Conference contender playing their best basketball of the season.
Utah has played the Clippers twice this season, with the home team winning each matchup, but the Jazz haven't really felt like themselves since Joe Ingles re-entered the starting lineup in the injured Mike Conley's place. Despite the absence of the fearsome point guard, Utah has recreated the magic of its last two seasons with a reinvigorated Ingles, and has won seven of the last ten games with him starting.
Ingles has averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 assists per game during this stretch while making over half of this 3-point attempts.
"They just have a lot of players: Joe Ingles, [Bojan] Bogdanovic, [Rudy] Gobert," Doc Rivers said. "They know how to play the game. They space the floor, they attack, they’re physical, they’re tough, you have to deal with that."
The Clippers have one of the best small-ball lineups in the league, but Rudy Gobert is one of the few centers who can act as a deterrent no matter what the opponent is doing. He has historically been very difficult cover for the Clippers, dating back to a 2017 playoff series that the Jazz won in seven games.
"I always like playing Gobert, I like playing the best bigs in the league. It’s a good challenge for me," Ivica Zubac said. "Utah has been playing really good lately, and it’s going to be a great game for us. We’re healthy, everyone’s playing. I think we can show what we got."
Here's what to watch for:
- Patrick Patterson was the starter against the Lakers with all 15 players available. It's unclear if that was an Anthony Davis-specific tactic or if Patterson has earned the role going forward.
- Rivers said the bench unit of Lou Williams-Landry-Shamet-Moe Harkless-JaMychal Green-Montrezl Harrell (a function of Patterson starting) was "okay". He likes the size, but isn't sure how much the team will use it in the future.
- Rodney McGruder was a DNP against the Lakers, which Rivers said was likely a one-time occurrence. McGruder doesn't exactly have the size to contend with either Davis or LeBron James, so he was a lineup casualty for that matchup. However, he is well-sized to disrupt Ingles and Donovan Mitchell, so expect to see increased minutes for McGruder tonight.
- On Mitchell: "He’s been great, he keeps getting better," Rivers said. "He had an amazing rookie year, second year I thought he just gradually got better in the year. This year, he started out the year on fire, so you know when you play Utah, he’s one of the guys you gotta focus on."
- Green has been eased back into the lineup since missing time with a tailbone contusion. Rivers admitted he erred by not playing him more against the Lakers, but a stretch five could be exactly what the Clippers need against Gobert.