When the Clippers made 7 of their first 11 shots to open up an early 15-5 lead, Jerry Sloan took a timeout. As the teams were heading to the bench, Ralph Lawler pointed out that the Clippers had played the night before in LA, they'd arrived at 3 AM, they were adjusting to the altitude, and they were playing without their second leading scorer in a city where they have a .025 winning percentage over the past two decades or so: it didn't make sense that they would start the game strong.
Indeed it didn't, and after that time out, things more or less returned to normal. The Clippers managed to hold onto their lead through most of the first half, losing it with 2:45 before halftime. They regained it briefly, but Mehmut Okur's three a minute later gave Utah the lead for good. The second half was the game we expected from the start - Utah getting easy buckets, the Clippers struggling to even get shots off, looking tired and disinterested. I haven't seen the popcornmachine game flow yet, but it seems like it will be a fairly steady downhill line from the 15-5 Clipper lead to the final score. That's a 32 point difference, 102 to 70, over that span. It all ended up where we suspected it would from the start, in LA's 40th loss in their last 41 trips to the Beehive state.
The Clippers didn't have much going for them in this one. Gordon was on the sidelines in a suit. Chris Kaman struggled from the start and finished with one of his worst shooting nights of the season, 5 for 17. He just looked completely flat out there. Baron Davis made a couple of threes, but couldn't seem to make layups. Travis Outlaw, getting his first start as a Clipper as Rasual Butler moved to the backcourt to replace Gordon, looked terrible for the second consecutive game. Other than Drew Gooden, who made his first six shots and seven of his first nine on the way to a team high 20, no one looked good. No one.
The Clippers finished the game shooting 41%, and also committed 20 turnovers (5 each forKaman and Baron). It's almost impossible to win basketball games if either of those things happens, let alone both.
Mehmut Okur was terrific for Utah. He made 11 of his 17 shots, including 3 for 4 on three pointers. He also had a couple of dunks and a couple of blocked shots, including a stuff of a DeAndre Jordan dunk attempt at the rim. Basically, he made several plays in the game that I've never seen him make, and frankly didn't know he was capable of making.
The only good news for the Clippers is that they get a couple of days off now. But on Tuesday they continue their trend of playing teams on tears - they managed a win against Utah on Monday, but then came Phoenix (13 wins in 17 games), Oklahoma City (13 wins in 16 games), Utah again (21 wins in 26 games) and now Orlando (14 wins in 18 games). Given the quality of the opposition on this trip and the number of back to backs, I really don't expect them to win a single game.
But at least they don't have to visit Utah again any time soon.