Will Hardy Adjusts Lineup As Jazz Fall To Clippers
Dec 8, 2023, 11:50 PM
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz were the victims of a superstar performance for the second straight outing after falling to the Los Angeles Clippers 117-103.
After Luka Doncic’s outrageous 40-point triple-double in Dallas on Wednesday, Kawhi Leonard poured in 41 points on 14-23 shooting for the Clippers.
The Jazz were led by John Collins who scored 20 points.
Will Hardy Adjusts Jazz Rotation Against Clippers
With Lauri Markkanen missing his seventh straight game due to a hamstring strain Jazz coach Will Hardy has been forced to adjust his rotation over the last two weeks.
Both Jordan Clarkson and Kelly Olynyk have missed games during the stretch which has opened up additional playing time for Simone Fontecchio, Kris Dunn, Omer Yurtseven, and rookie Taylor Hendricks.
With all but Markkanen available on Friday, Hardy showed some interesting wrinkles to his rotation.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 9, 2023
First, Yurtseven was moved out of the lineup entirely with Walker Kessler climbing back into the starting lineup.
Olynyk was the first Jazz big man off the bench, while Hendricks subbed in to start the second and fourth quarters, recording one steal, one turnover, and three missed shots in 11 minutes on the floor.
Fontecchio remained in the starting lineup, while Dunn did not get onto the floor.
But Hardy’s most interesting adjustment came in the second half after another poor shooting night from John Collins.
After knocking down 42 percent of his threes to start the season, Collins has cooled off considerably over his last four games, shooting just 3-15 from downtown.
With the forward struggling to produce on the perimeter, Hardy played Collins as the Jazz’s backup center in the third and fourth quarters, and Collins responded with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in the second half alone.
“We felt like trying to get him with the second group a little bit as a five so he could be a screener and a roller would help him,” Hardy explained, “and I thought that John did a great job.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 9, 2023
The Jazz starting lineup has been one of the worst five-man units in the NBA with both Collins and Keyonte George ranking among the 10-worst players in the league in total plus-minus.
Last season, the group was better with Olynyk starting and serving as a ball-mover and floor-spacer among a talented offensive group featuring Kessler and Markkanen.
Hardy has been forced to adjust his starting five over the first 22 games of the season to jumpstart the Jazz’s lineup numbers, but to date, rarely have they involved pulling Collins off the floor early in the game.
After a successful experiment in the second half against the Clippers, it may be worth giving Collins more minutes as the backup center, which could alter Hardy’s rotation going forward, even when Markkanen returns to the lineup.
Keyonte George Getting To The Free-Throw Line
The Keyonte George hype train has slowed down some after his impressive start to the season with both his assist numbers and field goal percentage dropping considerably over the last few weeks.
George had a solid shooting night against the Clippers, knocking down 5-11 from the floor including 2-5 from three after his difficult 2-11 night in Dallas on Thursday.
But even with George struggling to shoot efficiently during his rookie season, he’s learning how to subsidize his scoring numbers, even when his shots aren’t falling, by getting to the free-throw line.
Seems like Keyonte George has started shooting a half step earlier than expected when attacking the basket.
The downside is it makes for a more difficult shot, the upside is he is drawing way more fouls and is getting his shot blocked less often.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) December 9, 2023
Over his last eight games, George is averaging 5.2 trips to the charity stripe, an enormous leap from his first six games as a starter when he made just 2.7 trips, and an even greater growth from his first eight games when he earned just 1.3 free throw attempts per contest.
George has done it by creating more contact with his defender when driving into the paint, rather than bailing out with a difficult circus shot that NBA officials won’t reward with free throws.
He’s also begun shooting on a strange rhythm when attacking the paint, rising up early in his drives to draw a foul when an opponent is still pressed up against his body.
Though he has upped his free-throw attempts, George has seen his efficiency at the line drop, knocking down just 74 percent of his attempts over his last eight games, after shooting over eight percent to open the season.
But, even with a dip in free-throw percentage, the Jazz will still welcome George’s improved free-throw rate over the last two weeks, and it will pay dividends if he can keep it up.
Nightly Awards: Jazz Vs. Clippers
The “Will These Guys Make It To May?” Award:
Goes to the Los Angeles Clippers who were shorthanded without Daniel Theis in Utah, but have been playing their stars for a lot of minutes just to right the ship in early December.
Over his last six games, Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played fewer than 35 minutes while Paul George hasn’t played fewer than 36.
Players can handle increased workloads for short stretches, and the Clippers have needed to dig themselves out of a hole this month or risk an entire season getting away from them, but with the long injury history for both Leonard and George, one has to wonder if these added minutes early in the year will haunt them in the second half of the season.
When healthy, the Clippers talent can match anyone in the West, but if they are missing any one of Leonard, George, James Harden, or Ivica Zubac in the playoffs, their championship window may officially close this season.
Utah Jazz Next Broadcast
The Jazz will face the Thunder on Monday at 6 pm MST in Oklahoma City. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.
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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.
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