Without Kawhi Leonard in the lineup, the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t fare so well the last time they faced the Utah Jazz.
But Leonard and the Clippers are expecting a different outcome when they host the Jazz on Sunday in the second meeting in four days between the clubs.
The Jazz posted a 110-96 victory Wednesday over the visiting Clippers. The Clippers rested Leonard due to load management since the Utah game was the first of back-to-back contests, and Clippers coach Doc Rivers decided to give his superstar an early game off.
Leonard’s absence cost them dearly.
After trailing by one at the half, the Clippers were outscored 38-20 in the third quarter as the Jazz coasted. In a rare start, Lou Williams scored a team-high 24 points, JaMychal Green had 23 points and eight rebounds and Montrezl Harrell chipped in 10 points. No other Los Angeles player reached double figures.
Mike Conley finished with a season-high 29 points to lead Utah. Donovan Mitchell had 24 points, Bojan Bogdanovic had 14 and Rudy Gobert scored 13.
“The third quarter killed us,” Rivers said. “I thought we did a good job of getting back in the game but once the third quarter happened the game was basically open.”
On Thursday, the Clippers bounced back. Leonard scored a season-high 38 points in a 103-97 win against his former club, the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to spark the Clippers, who struggled offensively.
“Tonight he showed his genius, man,” said Williams, according to the Orange County Register. “He just literally put us on his back and made play after play down the stretch, especially in the fourth quarter when I couldn’t get going and nobody else could make shots. He really carried us.”
“That’s what I learned throughout my whole years,” Leonard told the Register. “Just keep being aggressive. Shots will fall.”
Leonard is shooting 50.5 percent in five games this season. He is averaging 29.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists in almost 30 minutes per outing.
Utah fell 102-101 at the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Harrison Barnes’ follow shot with 2.9 seconds left lifted the Kings to their first win of the season after five consecutive defeats.
One of those losses was a 113-81 setback to the Jazz on Oct. 26 in Utah.
“We’re in the same boat,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “We’ve added eight new guys, they’ve added quality veterans. It takes time for a team to come together.”
Mitchell led the Jazz with 24 points but was unable to convert a potential game-winning jumper before the final horn. Gobert had 15 points and 16 rebounds, Conley finished with 19 points, four assists and four steals, and Bogdanovic added 17 points and six rebounds.
Mitchell leads the Jazz in scoring, averaging 24.0 points per game. He is shooting 51.9 percent from the floor.
Conley has struggled offensively for the most part, managing just 33.3 percent shooting in six games and only 29.7 percent on 3-pointers. He is averaging 13.2 points per game.
–Field Level Media