Jazz-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

After rolling into the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Clippers struggled mightily in their first contest after it.

Saturday night's home game against Utah not only provides a chance to bounce back, but also an opportunity for their first season sweep over the Jazz in 34 years.

The Clippers went into the break with four straight wins by an average of 16.2 points while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor. Then they were completely dismantled on both ends of the floor in a 116-90 home loss to San Antonio on Thursday, their largest margin of defeat this season.

Not surprisingly, it was also one of the worst defensive performances of the season for Los Angeles (39-18), which let the Spurs shoot 58.9 percent.

"It's very humbling, but it happens," said Blake Griffin, who was 7 of 17 after shooting 64.7 percent in his previous four games. "We've got to have a good practice (Friday), go over our mistakes and bounce back against Utah on Saturday."

Los Angeles won the first two meetings with the Jazz on the road by a combined three points, then took a 107-96 home win on Dec. 30, despite seven points from Griffin, who was double-teamed and picked up five fouls. The Clippers haven't swept the season series since 1978-79.

Chris Paul had played particularly well during the four-game run, averaging 20.0 points on 60.0 percent shooting along with 10.5 assists and 3.5 steals. But he struggled in his first contest since winning All-Star Game MVP, finishing with four points on 1-for-6 shooting with three assists and three turnovers.

The Jazz (31-24) have won three in a row and 12 of 17 but unexpectedly maintained the status quo as Thursday's trade deadline passed.

Both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, with contracts set to expire and Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors waiting behind them, were pegged as likely trade candidates. But general manager Dennis Lindsey said no offers that Utah received made it a better team.

The Jazz also kept another expiring contract in Mo Williams, who has been out since late December with a right thumb injury but returned to practice on Monday.

"When they say you should make a trade is probably when you shouldn't," said Lindsey, in his first season as Utah's general manager. "We're not here to win a press conference."

Despite not making a deal, Utah's lineup had a new look Tuesday as Gordon Hayward returned after missing 10 games with a sprained right shoulder. He had 17 points in 25 minutes off the bench in a 115-101 home victory over Golden State.

Hayward took an early shot to the same shoulder on a drive to the basket, but was OK.

"He is who he is," coach Tyrone Corbin said of Hayward, Utah's third-leading scorer at 13.6 per game. "He was excited to be back. ... He looked great. His pace was good. I thought he came in looking for his shot, he didn't favor his shoulder when he went into the lane."

Jefferson scored 24 and is averaging 22.3 points in his last three games - 4.6 better than his team-leading average. He is averaging 22.7 points and 2.7 blocked shots in the three games versus the Clippers.

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