If the preseasons true purpose is to see what an NBA franchise does well and what it doesn’t, Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz is a moment to show and prove for the Los Angeles Clippers’ frontcourt.
The Clippers frontline has to prove they can play against one of the best low-post duos in the league–the Jazz’s Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Last season, Jefferson averaged 19.2 points per game, while Millsap added 16.6. Not only did the two score in bunches, but rebounded in them as well with game averages of 9.6 for Jefferson and 8.8 for Millsap.
Both of the big men were in the top 10 for double-doubles last season.
Defensively, DeAndre Jordan has to be on his A-game. Against the Miami Heat he played solid and great in both games in China, but the Heat don’t have a dominant low-post scorer such as the Jazz–who have two of them. Chris Bosh is a great player, but he is a jump shooting power forward who doesn’t want to bring his game in the low-post.
Jefferson and Millsap do and they do it well, and constant.
I’m not talking about blocks–which are always nice–but strong, in-your-face man defense. He needs to body Jefferson and have his hands up at all times since he is an inch taller (6’11” to 6’10”) and has a higher vertical than Utah’s center.
Of course, Blake Griffin needs to do the same thing with Millsap.
Past the starting lineup, Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf have to make every single minute of action count. Honestly, Turiaf and Hollins are not even needed offensively, so they shouldn’t even have plays in their head. The brain memory should be erased and crammed full of defensive strategies. Let Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Odom, Griffin and Jordan worry about offense.
Critics have said the frontcourt backups are irrelevant and leave the Clips rather thin inside. If Hollins and Turiaf play tough defense against this duo, fight for 50/50 balls and keep the Jazz’s offensive-rebounds to a minimum, they will prove why they were signed in the first place.
To be frank, I’m not worried about the Clippers offense in this game at all. It’s all about stopping Millsap and Jefferson, pushing the tempo of the game since the Clippers are more athletic and beating them on the boards.
The Utah Jazz made it to the playoffs last season solely on the efforts of the big men. If they weren’t on the court, the Jazz were in trouble for most of the season until Gordon Hayward showed he had game and Devin Harris decided to become an NBA point guard again toward the end of the season.
If Griffin, Jordan and the rest of LA’s big men get beat up on the boards, the Clippers might as well mail in the game because the Jazz are awfully hard to beat when they control the inside.
If LA can play solid inside defense and challenge the Jazz in the final rebounding total, they definitely have a chance to win the game and show the frontline is more than capable of helping win games.