A mostly boring game ended with WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON????!!!! The Clippers were up by double digits late, but two consecutive awful Chris Paul turnovers put the Jazz right back in it. It was the ultimate Clipper moment: they made poor decision after poor decision on both ends, and it all culminated with Joe Johnson shooting to tie the game with 5 seconds left. He missed, the ball went off the Jazz, and the Clippers held on to win. The Clippers are lucky to escape with the win after that stretch towards the end, when they seemed to actively want to blow the contest. Now let’s backtrack to the beginning.
An unlikely lineup pulled the Clippers into the lead when they were struggling towards the end of the 1st quarter: a mostly bench group of Ray Felton, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute, Paul Pierce, and Mo Speights. That’s not a lineup that Clippers’ fans have ever wanted to see, yet it played well, scoring on the back of Speights and getting stops on the other end. Unbelievably, that lineup may have changed the game.
Speights and Luc score nine points apiece in the opening half, Mo being active around the basket while Luc slashed and made nice cuts, as usual. Each helped provide buckets at times when the Clippers weren’t scoring, and it was fantastic to see these two step up after a couple down games.
DeAndre Jordan slept for most of the 1st half, scoring four points, pulling in six boards, and contesting maybe two shots. His slow play led to several easy Jazz baskets in the paint, a couple of offensive rebounds, and a general ease of the Jazz in getting into the paint. He then had three horrid turnovers in the first few minutes of the 3rd quarter, appearing to be completely checked out of the game and ready for vacation. However, after Doc yelled at him for a bit during a timeout, he stepped up the rest of the quarter, tightening his defense and finishing several plays around the basket.
Chris Paul keyed a run in the 3rd quarter that put the Clippers up 69-61. He was everywhere on defense, pushed the pace well on offense, and got Jamal Crawford a couple easy buckets. It is simply amazing to watch the man play basketball, and he was clearly expending every ounce of energy he had to keep the Clippers in the game.
The Clippers continued to play well in the 4th quarter, slowly expanding their lead, and answering every Jazz attempt at a comeback. Their defense wasn’t airtight, but it was far superior to that of previous games, especially on Gordon Hayward. The Clips were constantly getting deflections and steals, leading to easy fastbreak points. This was vital, since they have mostly been unable to generate any offense in the halfcourt since Blake Griffin went down. Austin Rivers hit a couple huge 3s, and the game appeared over. Then.. things went crazy.
Chris Paul was spectacular for 98% of the game – until the very end—keying the Clips on both ends. He finished with 29 points on 20 shots, and 8 assists. However, the two real heroes were Austin Rivers and Luc Mbah a Moute, who combined for 26 points, and played stellar defense all game. DJ was great for the Clips in the 2nd half after an awful start, and Jamal carried them for a bit in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters as well.
The series now heads back to LA for a 12:30 PT game on ABC. Go Clippers!