Missing both of their marquee starters again, the LA Clippers played the NBA-leading Utah Jazz close for three quarters, but Quin Snyder’s team pulled away in the 4th quarter in a 114-96 loss for the Clippers Wednesday at Staples Center.
The loss snapped LA’s four-game winning streak, but considering how shorthanded they were, there were certainly some positives to take from the performance for the Clippers.
Patrick Beverley returned to the starting lineup, and Lou Williams and Marcus Morris Sr. joined Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka to tip off the game for Ty Lue. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Nicolas Batum remained out of action again for this game, all three players still injured, as was Luke Kennard, out for the night with a sore knee.
The 1st quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams going on short runs in the opening minutes. And characteristically, the opening frame ended with the Clippers leading 25-24.
The 2nd quarter was full of more hustle, and in an another up-and-down stretch, the Clippers managed to extend their lead a bit, by a 51-46 margin at halftime. Williams led the way with 14 points in the first half, and Jackson wasn’t far behind with 10 points of his own.
The 3rd quarter continued the pattern of the game, with the teams battling but the Clippers maintaining an edge. Even with LA getting into foul trouble very early in the quarter, they continued to push to keep their edge and held on through the midpoint of the stanza, but the Jazz took the lead and finished the 3rd quarter up 81-75.
So it was all to play for in the 4th quarter, and the Clippers sought to rise to the occasion. Joe Ingles extended Utah’s lead to 10 points with a move on Patrick Patterson that left the Clippers player on his behind, before the Australian calmly stepped behind the 3-point line and buried the shot.
But the Clippers didn’t give up, and raised their intensity in an attempt to get back in the game. They slowly chipped away at the deficit, but Utah’s stars of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell helped the visitors put the game out of reach. With the pressure on and the minutes ticking down, the Clippers tightened up and couldn’t find their shooting touch, and the game was pretty much over with about 7:00 to play.
Once again, some players who seldom play major minutes for LA logged significant playing time in the game, but even though they faded down the stretch, there was plenty of opportunity for the Clippers who were available to build some chemistry without their big stars. Four players (Williams, Jackson, Serge Ibaka and Amir Coffey) reached double digits in scoring, respectively, Ivica Zubac led with 10 rebounds, and Beverley had two blocks. Still, determination will only get you so far against a team clicking as well as Utah, and even with a solid performance for three quarters, LA were far from flawless in their execution, something they would have needed to beat this Jazz team.
These teams are back in action, against each other, on Friday night once again at Staples Center. There’s another chance for redemption for the Clippers in the next game, and we’ll see if there will be any reinforcements in the lineup for that one.