In a season filled with challenges, this one – penciled right into the schedule – is a test the Clippers seem genuinely to be looking forward to.

The Utah Jazz are coming to town.

And it’s not a one-night-only engagement. The heavyweight showdown between the deep, capable Clippers and the NBA’s hottest team is set to last two rounds – on Wednesday and Friday – at Staples Center. The Clippers might benefit from Kawhi Leonard’s return if he’s able to play after missing the past two games with a left lower leg contusion; he’s considered questionable, according to the team.

The hosts won’t, however, have Paul George. The Clippers’ other star wing will miss his seventh game with swelling in a right toe bone. Also, starting forward Nicolas Batum will be sidelined for the second straight game with a concussion. Patrick Beverley, who rested Monday, as the Clippers finished a back-to-back set of games, was not on Tuesday’s injury report.

“We’ve all been watching, they’ve been beating a lot of good teams,” Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. said after contributing a season-high 32 points in a short-handed 125-118 victory over Miami on Monday. “It’s gonna be a good game to see where we at.”

The Clippers (21-8) expressed a respectful awareness, the detailed knowledge indicative of the fact that Utah (23-5) – which has been beating all comers, going 19-1 since Jan. 8 – isn’t just any opponent.

“I mean, they’re been playing great,” Clippers guard Reggie Jackson said. “We know that they like to get out in transition. I’m sure they probably get the most 3s in the league; they’re hunting them. They don’t just have one guy, their entire team is locked and loaded and ready to shoot, so I think they’re really gonna try and put pressure on us, making us protect the line as well and not get beat off the dribble.”

The Clippers pose their own challenges, of course: Coach Tyronn Lue’s team has won four consecutive games to improve to 15-4 since Jan. 10, continuing an upward trend even at significantly less than full strength.

And yet, even in the six-game span so far without George, the Clippers are scoring the fourth-most points in the NBA (120.3), they’ve got the third-best field goal percentage (50.5), the best 3-point percentage (42.9), and the fourth-best net rating (plus-7.7).

Utah, it should be noted, arrives in L.A. with similarly toutable rankings, whether you slice it by the entire season or by their past 20 games.

Certainly, since Jan. 8, the Jazz have found a far-out groove: They’re fourth in scoring (118.6), first in 3-pointers (17.7), first in rebounds (48.4) and have the league’s best net rating (plus-13.5).

Utah hasn’t been at full strength recently, either: starting point guard Mike Conley – who lit up the Clippers for a season-high 33 points in the team’s first meeting on New Year’s Day in Salt Lake City, which the Jazz won, 106-100 – has missed the past five games with an ailing hamstring.

Still, behind Donovan Mitchell’s fine play (24.2 points per game), Jordan Clarkson’s big jump (he’s averaging career numbers, including 18.2 points) and Rudy Gobert’s dynamic defense (including nearly 10 defensive rebounds per game), the Jazz haven’t missed a beat.

And the Clippers sounded pretty excited about that Monday night.

“It’ll be a great test for us; we’re happy to get them twice, honestly,” said Jackson, who has filled in as a starter admirably while Lue juggles his lineup to accommodate for injuries.





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