As has been the case with recent bouts between the two teams, Friday’s Utah Jazz-Los Angeles Clippers matchup was a close, intense and highly contested outing. Following the requisite streaks of both teams, the red-hot visiting Clippers rode theirs to a narrow victory, defeating the struggling Jazz 116-114.
Los Angeles played the role of the hottest team in the NBA very well, mounting a frantic comeback in the second half to win its 16th consecutive game. Utah came out with great energy, building as large as a 19-point lead in the third quarter. Despite the Jazz's spirited effort, however, they ultimately fell short.
Point Guard Play: Chris Paul showed why he is a legitimate MVP candidate. His play has fueled the juggernaut run by the Clippers, as evidenced by his performance against the Jazz. He kept a calm head in the midst of a large deficit and brought his team back. He scored the final seven points of the night for L.A., including the game-winning free throws. When it was all said and done, Paul tallied 29 points, six assists and one solitary turnover.
Conversely, in Mo Williams’ absence, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson could only manage a combined five points and five assists. They also turned the ball over six times. This is off the heels of a scoreless, seven-assist, seven-miscue outing versus the Golden State Warriors.
Until Watson sank a pair of free throws midway through the second quarter, Utah had gone 67 minutes without a point from its point-guard position.
Role Players Rolling: Both squads saw players step up. For the Utah Jazz, guard Randy Foye was excellent against his former team. He was the main offense in the first quarter and kept it going throughout. He shot 8 of 13 from the floor, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
The backcourt reserves for Utah, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, also turned in nice performances. Hayward was particularly aggressive, earning 11 free-throw attempts (hitting nine of them). He had 17 points, four assists and a pair of chase-down blocked shots. Burks, who has re-entered the Jazz rotation, put in 11 points in 19 minutes.
For the Clippers, starting center DeAndre Jordan made crucial play after crucial play down the stretch. He was able to convert a pair of three-point plays in the fourth quarter and his energy was constant. He finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
• As has occurred a few times this season, the entire starting lineup for the Jazz had negative plus-minus marks, while the reserves each registered positive ones. Of the bench players, only Hayward played more than 20 minutes.
• The two teams combined to shoot 81 free throws, with the Clippers having 41 and Jazz 40. There were 61 total fouls.
• Clippers reserve guard Eric Bledsoe played a season-low 10 minutes.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.