Following a disappointing defeat in Dallas the other night, the Clippers rebounded to earn an impressive 108-95 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. Despite a horrid start for the visitors, the Clippers weren’t able to put the Jazz away until late in this one.
The Clips were led by a stellar effort from the reserves, namely Jamal Crawford and Marreese Speights. Crawford canned a season-high 28 points and hit eight of his 12 shots, while Speights provided a few crucial buckets early in the fourth to help the Clippers finally pull away.
DeAndre Jordan was dominant on the glass in the first half, but didn’t play a single minute in the fourth as Doc Rivers decided to ride Speights’ hot hand.
Most of Utah’s regulars struggled throughout this one. Gordon Hayward contributed 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting from the field, but left in the fourth with an apparent knee issue. Hayward and Rudy Gobert were the only Utah starters to score in double figures. The Stifle Tower was a handful for LA, and finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined to score just 29 points, but luckily the Clips didn’t need either of them to have their offensive A-games to pull this one out. Free throws were also instrumental in helping the Clippers win this one. They hit 25 of their 28 foul shots, while Utah went 13-for-18.
As is the case just about every time two teams play a weekend matinee affair at Staples, both teams came out looking ragged/hungover. The Jazz and Clippers combined to score a whopping four points over the first four minutes of the game. Once they got their legs, though, the Clips started to look more crisp in getting out to an early 16-6 lead.
Utah started 3-13 from the field and generally looked sluggish. DeAndre Jordan was the opposite of sluggish in the early going. He racked up five points with seven boards with a block over the first nine minutes as LA jumped out to an early double-digit lead. The bench then came in and kept things going with the Jazz continuing to flounder offensively.
Utah was stuck on six points until the latter stages of the first until Rudy Gobert got a couple of easy buckets to nudge Utah into double figures. The Clips were playing solid defense, but Utah was also missing plenty of makable shots, too.
Whatever the case, a three-ball by Jamal Crawford doubled things up, and LAC led 28-14 after one.
George Hill scored a quick five for the Jazz to begin the second before appearing to injure himself, but he stayed in the game. Utah was rolling a lineup with a pair of starters, while Doc Rivers ran the vaunted all-bench unit (featuring Paul Pierce!) out there. Unsurprisingly, the Jazz racked up the first nine points of the frame.
Mercifully, Blake Griffin returned to the floor just after the nine-minute mark. He quickly proceeded to lose the ball in the process of a wide-open dunk, which led to Mike Smith pointing out that Griffin has smallish hands and can’t palm the ball all that well. I’m sure players love having that pointed out on television.
One thing keeping the Jazz at bay was their miserable shooting. Utah hit just one of their first 12 three-point attempts, while Hayward missed each of his first five shots from the floor. A long triple from J.J. Redick extended the Clips’ lead to 43-28 as Utah continued to flounder offensively.
Hayward contributed his first points of the game on a driving layup that Jordan goaltended. He and Joe Johnson then drilled consecutive threes as the Jazz seemed to perk up a bit in the scoring department. Jordan continued to own the boards, and stuffed back a miss from Redick to collect his 14th rebound and sixth and seventh points of the first half alone.
Chris Paul couldn’t buy a bucket over the game’s first 24 minutes, hitting just one of his first eight attempts and missing all five triple tries. That little surge at the end of the second by the Jazz whittled LAC’s advantage to 49-41 heading into the break.
The Clippers clearly wanted to establish Griffin offensively after the half, and he wound up scoring the first six points of the second half for the home team. The starters reestablished the double-digit cushion that they had earned in the first half, and a driving layup by CP3 extended the lead back up to 14.
Unfortunately, Utah would keep going on little runs to keep the game relatively close. Seven straight points from Gobert, Johnson and Raul Neto brought Utah back to within nine. The Jazz then collected four points on one possession when Gobert was fouled on a tip-back slam and Chris Paul was simultaneously slapped with a T.
Utah started to tighten the screws defensively and the Clippers were having to settle for tough, contested shots. The Clips closed the frame with the feared all-bench unit, and Crawford quickly picked up a technical of his own after not getting a whistle on the previous possession. Johnson hit the technical foul shot then drilled a floater to knot the score at 70. Pierce (!?) then scored on the next trip to put the Clips up by two heading to the fourth.
With Gobert planted on the bench, the Clips’ reserves were actually able to make some things happen offensively. They collected the first eight points of the fourth to go back up 10 after a couple of minutes. Mo Speights was taking full advantage of Boris Diaw’s, uh, girth, and was asserting his will with the ball in his hands.
The Clips’ early success forced Snyder to come back with the Stifle Tower with about nine minutes to go. Speights struck again, drilling a triple from the corner to put the Clips up 11, only to have Hayward answer back with a longball of his own on the next trip down.
Hayward seemed to feel something go wrong with his left knee after hitting the shot, though, and quickly took himself out of the game. He didn’t leave immediately for the locker room, though, so perhaps it wasn’t overly serious.
Crawford put Lawler’s Law in motion with a pull-up three-pointer - his seventh make in 11 attempts from the floor - to give himself 22 points on the night and put LAC up 16 once again. Jamal got fouled on a heat check attempt on the next possession and hit all three free-throws to give the Clips their largest lead at 103-84 with four to play.
The Jazz waved the white flag shortly thereafter, emptying the bench with the likes of Dante Exum, Trey Lyles and Jeff Withey.
This win clinched the season series for the Clippers over the Jazz by a 3-1 margin. It also clinched a playoff spot for a franchise-record sixth consecutive season. LA is now just a half-game (one in the loss column) behind the Jazz for the No. 4 spot, though Utah faces a far more daunting schedule than the Clips do down-the-stretch.
The Clips will be right back at it tomorrow afternoon when they host the Sacramento Kings at Staples at 12:30.