With four wins in a row, the Clippers arrived in Salt Lake City with a real chance to make it five against the team they eliminated in the playoffs last season. However, the absences of Paul George and Nicolas Batum proved too much to overcome against the third-place Jazz, and they lost 124-103.
While both the Clippers and Jazz are known for their defense (they rank fourth and fifth in defensive rating, respectively), the first quarter suggested the game would be a high-scoring affair. Marcus Morris Sr. and Luke Kennard started off hot, scoring a combined 21 out of the team’s 31 total points in the quarter on over 80 percent shooting. Their hot shooting seemed contagious, as the Clippers started off the second quarter following their lead. Eric Bledsoe particularly impressed, as he contributed 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the first half, with much of that being done in the second quarter (and without a single miss from the field).
️ AND 1!! @EBled2 is perfect from the field, folks. pic.twitter.com/gcy60iLYAk— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 16, 2021
The most striking stat of the half, though, were the rebounding numbers—the Clippers outrebounded the Jazz 30 to 21, demonstrating their knack for team rebounding against the number four team in rebounds per game.
Despite the good play from the Clippers, the Jazz did not waver and turned on the defense as the quarter progressed. They forced bad turnovers which took away from the Clippers’ momentum, and players like Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic made sure to capitalize on the other end which led to a six-point Jazz lead at the half.
The Jazz carried their own momentum into the second half and extended their lead to 17 at one point in the third, as Donovan Mitchell made up for his lackluster first half and contributed 13 points in that quarter alone. The Clippers kept it competitive throughout the fourth and cut the lead to single digits at multiple points in the quarter, but the Jazz effectively kept them at bay through hard-nosed defense and offensive conversions. It was the trio of Mitchell, Clarkson, and Bogdanovic who ended the game early, combining for 68 points in the game.
Although the inability to string five wins in a row is certainly deflating, it’s easy to imagine a different outcome with a healthy George and Batum. Now, the Clippers will look forward to what may be an easier matchup in Oklahoma City before returning home to face off against the Spurs.