The Los Angeles Clippers certainly got off to a flying start at home. Now they’ll see how it translates in a building where they have won only once in 29 tries.
Los Angeles opened the season with a 112-104 loss at Phoenix before sweeping a five-game homestand.
However, the Clippers have lost five straight games in Utah and 32 of their last 33 trips there. The Jazz (6-1), who are 28-1 at home against Los Angeles since the Delta Center opened in 1991, have won the last four home meetings by a combined 10 points.
The Clippers dropped their lone visit last season, 105-103 on March 3. Utah blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter before Deron Williams made a runner in the lane with 2.4 seconds left for the win.
Kirilenko’s absence should help the Clippers’ cause. The forward is out indefinitely after he suffered a sprained right ankle in a 113-111 victory at Milwaukee on Saturday.
“We’re very disappointed that Andrei’s not going to be able to be with us, but life goes on,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “We’d like to have had him come out of the locker room and help us finish the game the other night. But we had to finish with what we had.”
Kirilenko is averaging 8.4 points this season—sixth-best on the team.
“Key guys like Andrei are tough to lose because he does so many things for us at both ends of the court,” guard Derek Fisher said. “You just have to make sure that everybody understands that the things that one guy brings should not be able to destroy our team and the things we’ve done so far.”
Matt Harpring, who started 32 games last season, will likely make his first start of the year. Harpring is averaging 10.9 points off the bench.
Los Angeles enters this visit with plenty of momentum after closing out its homestand with a 92-76 victory over New Orleans on Saturday. The Clippers have won their last three games by an average margin of nearly 16 points.
However, coach Mike Dunleavy still doesn’t think his improving Clippers believe in themselves.
“Our guys overall I think, are still a little hesitant,” he said. “They’re not as confident as I would like to see them.”
One Clipper who has never been hesitant is veteran guard Sam Cassell, who is averaging a team-high 20.8 points per game. Cassell’s teams are 9-7 in his career in the Delta Center, where he’s averaged 15.4 points.
“Minor lapses in our scheme, and being able to correct them during the game is what will make us a better ballclub,” Cassell said. “How we adjust during timeouts and how we finish quarters will make us a better ballclub.”