Los Angeles Clippers (10-6) vs. Utah Jazz (9-9)
When it comes to teams straddling the line between the two post, grind-it-out basketball and the stretch-4, spread the floor basketball that has pervaded the NBA, these two teams are in the middle of that spectrum. If the Grizzlies are on one end and the Heat are on the other, the Clippers and Jazz are truly in the middle.
Both these teams feature strong post players. But they also feature power forwards that can both battle in the low post and step out and hit jumpers. Paul Millsap has had that shooting ability for a while now and has brought it out in key moments.
Blake Griffin though? This is new.
Griffin is shooting more shots from 16-23 feet than anywhere else ont he floor this year. He is making 38.9 percent of those shots so far. But the fact Griffin is confident taking these shots is likely meaning he has added something new to his game. Something that appears to be even more necessary in today's NBA.
Certainly Griffin is trying to show he is more than just a high-flying dunker. Trying to get defenses respect that jumper will help him do more of that too.
His 72 shot attempts from 16-23 feet outpaces his 70 shot attempts from 3-9 feet. Last year, most of his shots came from that short range and he had only 248 attempts from 16-23 feet (about 3.8 attempts per game). He has upped that amount to 4.5 attempts per game from outside the paint and just inside the 3-point line.
Yes, this is the most inefficient shot in the game. It is not something to rely on entirely. But, again, it is a part of Griffin's game that he needs to develop and have defenses respect.
So that is something Griffin continues to work on. He needs to get that percentage up. And that would make the Clippers that much more dangerous. Not that they are not already.
Other Storylines to Watch
-Marvin Williams went through shootaround this morning and has been medically cleared to play after suffering a concussion last week. That will be a good thing for the Jazz who need his defensive presence at small forward against this deep Clippers team.
-Lamar Odom has had his criticism in his career. A lot of it has been fair criticism for sure. Weight has been one of them. He showed up in camp a bit overweight, but Vinny Del Negro says he has seen Odom working hard to get back into game shape. And even already, fans can see Odom contributing.
Tonight's Other Games
Portland Trail Blazers (7-10) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7-8)
The Trail Blazers are on an East Coast trip that has seen them lose to the Wizards, Celtics, Nets and Pistons. The win over the Cavaliers on Saturday was something this team absolutely needed. Nicolas Batum had a big effort in the overtime win there. With two games left, Portland still has something to salvage on this trip.
Cleveland Cavaliers (4-13) vs. Detroit Pistons (5-13)
The Cavaliers have sunk a bit after Kyrie Irving's injury. But there is some good news. Irving has been cleared for everything but contact as he recovers from the broken finger that has kept him out the majority of this season. While the experience has been invaluable for Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao has played at an All-Star level, the Cavaliers need Irving back.
Milwaukee Bucks (8-7) vs. New Orleans Hornets (4-11)
Those still waiting to see top overall pick Anthony Davis will have to wait a little bit longer. Davis should be out at least another week as he recovers from a stress reaction in his left ankle. Davis was playing some superb basketball before his injury, showing no trouble adjusting to the NBA. However, there is no telling how much he lost sitting out this long.
Toronto Raptors (4-13) vs. Denver Nuggets (8-9)
Pau Gasol trade rumors are sparking up again and that can only mean the Raptors, a team desperately trying to make the playoffs, will get involved. With Kyle Lowry in the fold and looking good, the Raptors have seemed likely to trade free agent-to be Jose Calderon, who has always had a somewhat rocky relationship with Toronto since he is no longer the full-time starter. While going to the Lakers would mean he is backing up Steve Nash, it does make the Raptors an attractive trade partner should the lakers want to pull the trigger.
Orlando Magic (6-10) vs. Golden State Warriors (10-6)
You have to wonder how much the Magic will have left in them after an emotional 113-103 win over the Lakers on Sunday night. Both Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick, two holdovers from the Magic's 2009 Finals team and from last year's Dwight-mare filled season, tweeted to the Orlando fans that the win in Los Angeles was for them. You will have a hard time convincing anyone that it did not mean a little something to them too.