Utah Jazz (15-16) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (24-6)
On Friday night, the Jazz raced out to a 16-point lead and seemed like they would be able to end the Clippers now 16-game win streak. It was the first time in a while the Los Angeles bench did not lead the way as Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were the guys driving the ship.
It was Paul leading the way to the finish line in that game, drawing the foul that turned out to be the game winner and leading the way. The touch foul had Utah fans pretty upset, but the Jazz had to do something to get that big lead. And that is where Utah could still have an advantage in this rematch.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are a handful for just about every NBA team, and that goes for the Clippers too. Without doubt, Utah needs to continue pounding the ball inside to them and try to get Los Angeles' big front line out of the game too.
The Clippers though are a very good team and it feels unlikely that the bench would have two consecutive games without production. Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford have been rolling as of late. Even Lamar Odom looks like he is getting back into shape.
But as the previous matchup with the Jazz proved, the Clippers need a good performance from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to win and keep winning.
Seventeen games in a row sound srelaly nice. While Los Angeles has won those games, there are still many people wondering about this team. The idea of the Clippers as the best team in the NBA still feels foreign. That would be unfair. Winning this many games in a row is a rare feat. A 17-game win streak has happened only 16 times in NBA history.
Whether it sounds right or not, Chris Paul and the Clippers could be joining some elite company.
Other Storylines to Watch
-Jamal Crawford has ceded the team lead in points per game, a category he was leading for much of the early part of this season. But Crawford has re-established himself as the most dangerous scorer off the bench. He is averaging 16.4 points per game this year.
-The Jazz have played a few games now without Mo Williams, who injured his thumb about a week ago. Williams was undoubtedly Utah's best perimeter option with Millsap and Jefferson manning the post. Gordon Hayward has been the surprise player stepping up in his stead off the bench. But it has been Randy Foye fitting into the starting lineup. Foye had a season-high 28 points in 29 minutes Friday against the Clippers.
Tonight's Other Games
Milwaukee Bucks (16-12) vs. Detroit Pistons (10-22)
Monta Ellis is a prolific scorer in the NBA. But do you consider him one of the great shooting guards in the league? Can he do more? We are still figuring out exactly what Ellis can do and the debate about who comes after Dwyane Wade in Eastern Conference shooting guards is raging. Ellis thinks not only is he in this category… he is Wade without the two titles. That sounds outlandish, especially considering Ellis has been out of the first round of the Playoffs just once in his career. It sounds even a bit more sillier considering he is averaging just 19.3 points per game on worse than 40 percent shooting.
San Antonio Spurs (23-8) vs. Dallas Mavericks (12-18)
If you had Tony Parker as the first Spur to get warned for flopping, you win the pool. It seemed like the rule was built to look closely at Manu Ginobili and the wild gesticulations and movements he makes when he is fouled or he draws a foul. But it was Parker getting the warning first for the Spurs. No money is on the line, it is after the second warning that fines begin.
Boston Celtics (14-15) vs. Sacramento Kings (10-19)
If Danny Ainge is going to make a deal with Geoff Petrie, this night will be the night to get some face time and talk shop. Boston has long been rumored to be one of the potential trade partners for Demarcus Cousins, who was recently suspended indefinitely but has since returned to the lineup. It is clear the Kings and Cousins have sort of run their course. Cousins has even switched agents to Dan Fegan, who is well known for helping players weasel their way out of town.