The Utah Jazz had a lot going against them Saturday night. They were on the road facing a Western Conference contender in the Los Angeles Clippers, doing so in the second half of a back-to-back. While a late spurt propelled the Clippers to a 98-90 win, the Jazz competed and were in it late in the outing.
In a sometimes sloppy and disjointed seesaw game, the two squads took turns going on mini runs. Despite only four points from their starting backcourt, Utah held the lead for most of the first half. Los Angeles then took its turn, winning both the third and fourth quarters and subsequently the game. The youthful Jazz refused to give up and had a spirited run that tied the game at 90 with 2:32 left, only to see the Clippers score the final eight points of the night.
The Jazz have now played six of their last seven games on the road and will return home to compete against former Utah center Al Jefferson and the Charlotte Bobcats.
Stars shining: While their star-laden neighbors, the Los Angeles Lakers, have suffered from injuries, the Clippers have become — at least definitely this season — the team to watch in the City of Angels. And like the Lakers, the Clippers too feature some of the NBA’s brightest stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The duo showed again what they are capable of doing.
Paul, arguably the league’s best point guard, simply dominated his battle against rookie Trey Burke. While Burke had 12 points and six assists, Paul had a terrific all-around game. He came one assist away from a triple double, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebound and nine assists. He also added five steals and committed just two turnovers.
Griffin overcame some early foul trouble to have one of the best games of his season. Facing different Utah defenders in Derrick Favors, Marvin Williams and Enes Kanter, Griffin was dialed in. He scored on a variety of moves in the paint and from the perimeter. He hit 13 of 20 from the floor and given his aggressive moves, earned 17 trips to the free-throw line, hitting 14 of them. Griffin tallied 40 points and 11 rebounds.
Bounce back for Kanter: Utah big man Kanter has had an up-and-down season. He started the year playing some excellent ball only to be sidelined with an ankle injury. Since then, he’s had his struggles and is adapting to a new role off the bench. Perhaps a strong performance against the Clippers will jump-start the talented center.
Kanter was pitted against Griffin early on and played quite solid defense. In the second half, it was his offense and rebounding that kept the Jazz in the game. He made three clutch baskets in the fourth quarter and finished with team-high marks of 17 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes.
• After having seven turnovers in the previous outing, Burke had six miscues Saturday. As a team, Utah coughed the ball up 19 times — 14 coming off Clippers' steals.
• Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin introduced a three-guard line-up in the first half featuring Alec Burks, John Lucas III and Diante Garrett. Brandon Rush registered a DNP-CD.
• Gordon Hayward and Burke combined to shoot just 7 of 25 field goals.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.