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Apr 5, 2024 7:31 am

Clippers look to gain steam vs. out-of-tune Jazz

Los Angeles Clippers

Once the hottest team in the NBA earlier this season, the Los Angeles Clippers are trying to regroup.

On Friday, they find themselves seeking a much-needed victory against the visiting Utah Jazz.

Not making life any easier is Kawhi Leonard is trending toward missing a third straight game due to right knee soreness. Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was unable to specify a return date, suggesting it could be the middle of next week.

“We’re not gonna get into the details of it, but he’s gonna miss a couple games and we need to be ready to step up as he goes through his rehab process,” Lue told reporters before Thursday’s 102-100 home victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Los Angeles (48-28) strengthened its hold on fourth place in the Western Conference even while games at home have not been as kind as they used to be.

Los Angeles snapped a five-game home losing streak by recovering from a slow start to get past Denver. Paul George had 28 points, James Harden added 20 and Ivica Zubac collected 14 points with 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who won despite shooting just 37.8 percent from the floor. They made 27 free throws.

“It’s a big win, especially because we’ve been losing at home,” George said on the TNT broadcast. “(Denver) is a championship-caliber team; they’re the defending champs. I thought we did a great job of staying in it and we fought hard.”

The game against Denver started a run for the Clippers in which six of their last seven games in the regular season are at home. The lone road game is at Phoenix on Tuesday.

The Jazz (29-47) are mired in a 10-game losing streak and were eliminated from postseason consideration last week.

Despite the losing, Utah has a reason to feel good after general manager Justin Zanik underwent a successful kidney transplant surgery Tuesday.

“Today is a really good day,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said, even after the team lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-113.

Since Utah last won consecutive games in early February to reach .500, the team is 3-21 and has started looking toward the future.

Rookie Brice Sensabaugh has played at least 30 minutes in each of the past two games and has rewarded the coaching staff with 22 points in each contest.

Two more Jazz rookies have been getting important experience: Taylor Hendricks and Keyonte George.

“For us to be able to get these minutes right now, (don’t) take it for granted at all because there’s some rookies who don’t even smell the floor their first year,” Sensabaugh said. “… For us to be playing 30 minutes and starting together is really important, and we don’t take it for granted.”

The Clippers and Jazz each have won a game in the season series, with a fourth matchup after Friday’s game set for April 12 at Los Angeles. The most recent meeting came on Dec. 8 when the Clippers rolled to a 117-103 victory in the midst of a nine-game winning streak.

–Field Level Media

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