Utah Jazz: Jazz hang with Clippers but ultimately fall on the road
Mark J. Terrill, AP
LOS ANGELES — You had to figure there was no way the Utah Jazz could hang with the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night — not after having to play the night before at home against the other L.A. team, while the Clippers had a couple of days to reflect and stew over their two tough losses to two of the Western Conference's better teams earlier in the week.
Yet here the Jazz were, leading the Clips at halftime and staying close until the final two minutes of the game.
In the end there was just too much Blake Griffin and Chris Paul for the Jazz to handle.
"We were right there, but they had that 8-0 stretch at the end," said Utah coach Tyrone Corbin. "But I can't say enough about the way our guys came out after last night. We had a chance, but just made some mistakes at the end."
Griffin finished with a season-high 40 points, while Paul nearly had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. Jamal Crawford chipped in 13 points for the Clippers, including a huge 3-pointer with his team clinging to a two-point lead with under two minutes to play.
Enes Kanter had one of his better games of the season — Corbin called it his "most complete game" of the season, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, while veterans Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams each scored 15 points.
Derrick Favors was plagued by foul trouble much of the night and finished with just four points before fouling out. Gordon Hayward also sat out much of the first half in foul trouble and scored nine points.
Trey Burke, who injured his ankle the night before against the Lakers, had a tough night, missing his first five shots before finishing with 12 points on 4 of 14 shooting and also had six turnovers, a night after committing seven against the Lakers.
Burke said his ankle "was a little sore," but "felt OK" and that it didn't affect his poor shooting.
"It might be a little mental, but I just got to get better at shot selection and taking my time," he said. "I felt I rushed a couple of shots."
The Jazz, who came in with the worst record in the Western Conference, never let the Clippers, who lead the Pacific Division, out of their sights.
They tied the game at 90 with 2:33 left on a pair of Burke free throws, but at the other end, the Clippers scored on a Griffin dunk off a Paul pass. Then the Jazz committed consecutive turnovers, one by Burke and other by Kanter and Jamal Crawford converted with a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 95-90.
"I feel like I played kind of fast in a couple of possessions down the stretch and it cost us," said Burke. "We were down two points and I had a critical turnover and they made a three off of it, so I'm obvious disappointed in that, especially me as a point guard. I just have to learn from it."
Paul added a pair of free throws, then after a Hayward miss, Griffin added another free throw as the Jazz came up empty on their final seven possessions of the game.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said his team was "flat," although he thought they played hard.
"We couldn't make shots and every time we got a nine or 10-point lead it was almost guaranteed that we were going to have three turnovers in a row or bobble the ball," Rivers said. "It was just one of those nights and we made just enough plays to win the game."
After dispatching of the easier of the two L.A. teams the night before, the Jazz flew into L.A. and tried to not to be too tempted by the 80-degree weather outside as they prepared for the evening's game.
The Clippers were coming off two close road losses on the road to Portland and Golden State — games the Clippers thought they should have won.
In a sloppy first quarter, the Jazz took a 20-17 lead and at halftime lead 43-42 after Hayward and Burke made their first baskets of the half in the final 90 seconds. Neither team shot well in the opening half as both teams shot 41 percent.
The Clippers appeared to be breaking the game open late in the third quarter when they scored nine points in less than two minutes, including back-to-back dunks by Griffin to make it 67-58.
However, the Jazz came back in the final two minutes of the half with seven straight points — on a pair of hook shots by Kanter and 3-pointer by Hayward to cut the lead to 68-65.
In the final quarter, the Clippers went up by eight at 86-78, but couldn't shake the Jazz as Burke sank a 3-pointer, Kanter hit a jumper and Hayward and Burke made free throws to tie it up at 90.
The Jazz return home to play Charlotte Monday night and then Milwaukee on Thursday night. They'll play the Clippers again in L.A. on Feb. 1, before hosting the Clips at home on March 14.
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