The Los Angeles Clippers head to Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City for a New Year’s Day showdown against the Utah Jazz. The Clippers are fresh off a convincing 128-105 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at the Staples Center. They had the game essentially wrapped up at halftime with a big lead over the visiting Trail Blazers, who were coming off a statement win over the LA Lakers.
Hanging around in Los Angeles waiting for the Clippers game after defeating the Lakers likely had something to do with their performance. The Clippers are a better team than the Trail Blazers, but I’m sure it would have been much closer if Portland wasn’t coming off that win.
Kawhi Leonard made his return against the Trail Blazers after missing a couple of games with a mouth laceration. If he really wanted to, I’m sure Leonard could have thrown on a mask and not miss a game. That is if this were the playoffs or in an important stretch season. At this point in the year, it really wasn’t necessary for Kahwi to play after Serge Ibaka nearly took his head off with an elbow.
Early indications on the court seemed to indicate that Ibaka might have broken his jaw or cheek. It was a vicious unintended shot to the mouth that caused quite a bit of bleed to spew from his mouth. A masked Kawhi returned to the floor against the Trail Blazers and made his presence felt as you would have thought.
He scored 28 points and had 7 assists to lead the Clippers in scoring. The Clippers had that one embarrassing game against the Dallas Mavericks, a 124-73 loss, but have seemingly bounced back in fine form. The loss wasn’t because of no Kawhi, it was because of no effort, and it seemed to be an early wake up call. Better now than later in the season. They head into Utah with a record of 3-1.
The Jazz are coming off a 106-95 loss against the Phoenix Suns on New Year’s Eve. They are on a back-to-back, but after a performance like that, it’s sometimes better to just want to get back out on the court and play instead of sitting around. The Jazz head into the first day of 2021 with a mark of 2-2. Up and down performances so far, with an impressive 120-100 win to open the season, but responded with a 116-111 loss versus the Timberwolves. Head below for our free LA Clippers vs. Utah Jazz pick on January 1, 2020.
LA Clippers vs. Utah Jazz NBA Betting Odds:
LA Clippers vs. Utah Jazz Prediction:
Which version of the Jazz are going to show up on Friday night? I thought they had the same problems last season, but overall, didn’t get as much respect as they probably deserved. The Jazz finished the 2019-20 season with a record of 44-28. Put them in the Eastern Conference and the Jazz are a likely contender.
However, having to deal with this stacked Western Conference puts them in an impossible spot. They would need multiple teams to catch the injury bug. In any case, if the Clippers come into Utah napping, a small upset is more than possible. The Jazz are 22nd in the NBA with 109 points scored per game. Over a decade ago that would have been good, but in 2020, Donovan Mitchell needs a running mate in Salt Lake City to get the Jazz offense to the next level.
Mike Conley Jr. is a fine player, and for a 33-year-old, Conley Jr. is better than most at this point in their careers. However, if the Jazz are going to be taken seriously, they need a superstar next to Mitchell. That said, the Clippers struggled against the Jazz in their last meeting, with a 120-107 loss on December 28 at the Staples Center. However, prior to that game, the Jazz were losers by a score of 105-94 versus the Clippers.
The offensive and defensive numbers are skewed for the Clippers at the moment because of the Mavericks game, but that game is not indicative of them at all. The Clippers decided to take the night off. I believe that the Clippers are still trying to prove something after that loss. In other words, they aren’t ready to take a game off and lay off the gas after beating the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves. The Clippers likely arrive in Salt Lake City focused on the Jazz. There will be letdown spots for the Clippers, naturally, but don’t believe this is it. I’m on the Clippers to cover against the Jazz.