Utah (12-5) at LA Clippers (3-14)

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO, STATS Writer Sunday, Nov 28, 2010 Tipoff: 3:30 pm EST Sun Nov 28, 2010

The Utah Jazz are proving they belong among the Western Conference elite. They haven’t resembled that when visiting the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.

Coming off two of their more impressive performances of the season, the Jazz look to avoid another letdown against the Clippers at Staples Center on Sunday.

Utah (12-5) has won 12 of 15 after opening the season with consecutive losses.

The club has turned up the defensive intensity and been very effective from 3-point range during its current four-game win streak. Utah has held opponents to 90.0 points per game while shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the arc in that span.

The Jazz overcame a 19-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-96 on Friday in the first meeting between the teams since Utah was swept out of the West semifinals last season. The Jazz’s performance Friday, which was aided by going 7 for 17 from long range, came two nights after beating New Orleans 105-87.

“It proved that we can play with the best of them,” said center Al Jefferson(notes), who scored 20 points with eight rebounds against the Lakers after getting 23 and 10, respectively, versus the Hornets.

Judging by each team’s record this season, Utah’s momentum wouldn’t appear to be in much danger against the Clippers (3-14). The Jazz beat Los Angeles 109-107 in double overtime at home on Nov. 6, improving to 18-8 in the last 26 meetings. However, all of those defeats have come in the most recent 13 visits to Staples Center, and by an average of 12.7 points.

Deron Williams(notes) struggled with his shot in two road meetings against the Clippers last season, scoring 13 points in each contest while making 9 of 28 from the field and totaling 24 assists.

The All-Star guard didn’t have much trouble against the Clippers earlier this month, scoring 30 points. He’s also entering this matchup with some momentum, shooting 19 of 32 to total 55 points, 23 assists and seven steals over the last two games.

Jefferson, acquired in a trade from Minnesota during the summer, could help the Jazz avoid another letdown at Staples Center. He’s averaging 22.0 points and 12.2 rebounds in his last five road matchups against Los Angeles.

Jefferson scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards Nov. 6.

Returning home may have the Clippers feeling slightly better.

They’re 3-6 as hosts, compared to 0-8 on the road. Los Angeles’ road struggles showed few signs of slowing Friday, as it lost 116-108 to Phoenix while committing 16 turnovers.

The Clippers rank near the bottom of the league with 16.6 turnovers per game.

Guard Eric Gordon(notes) and forward-center Blake Griffin(notes) continue to be bright spots, as the Clippers’ top scorers with averages of 24.5 points and 19.3, respectively.

Gordon is averaging 29.0 points over the last three games after scoring a season-high 32 against the Suns. He had 27 points in Utah earlier this month, while Griffin was held to 16 while collecting 17 rebounds.

Griffin, the team leader with 11.4 boards per game, continues to be a force with averages of 28.3 points and 14.3 rebounds over the last four games.

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Sunday, Nov 28