LOS ANGELES — Go ahead and put three asterisks on the Los Angeles Clippers' 17-game winning streak***.
*Victim 3: Utah Jazz.
*Victim 16: Utah Jazz.
*Victim 17: Utah Jazz.
For the third time in their franchise-best victory spurt — and the second time in a weekend — the Clippers beat the Jazz on Sunday night at Staples Center.
"They're a good team. They're playing very well right now," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They're confident. They've got everything going for them."
Including three wins over the Jazz in December.
The only good news for Utah after this 107-96 loss?
The Jazz don't have to play the crazy-hot Clippers again until Feb. 23 in Los Angeles.
Unlike the previous two December defeats to the Clippers, this one wasn't a last-second nail-biter.
Though it ended up a double-digit victory — as 12 of the Clips' 17 wins have been — it was the Jazz who posted a nice rally to make this competitive in the second half.
The Jazz erased a 12-point deficit and snatched a one-point lead late in the third quarter when Al Jefferson capped a 12-2 run with a go-ahead basket during his 30-point effort.
Utah managed to hang around with the Clippers, only trailing by five points in the final four minutes. But, perhaps inspired by Hulk Hogan's "Flex Cam" video-screen promotion, this L.A. team flexed its NBA-leading muscles down the stretch.
Matt Barnes hit a dagger from beyond the arc with 3:13 remaining, and the Jazz only scored six points in the final 3:38.
In doing so, the Clippers (25-6) handed the Jazz (15-17) their seventh setback in nine games while adding another win to the longest winning streak in the NBA in the past five seasons.
Not only that, but the squad that used to be referred to as L.A.'s JV team joined the 1971-72 Lakers and the 1995-96 Spurs as the only teams to go 16-0 in a month. While rolling to the league's longest win streak in five seasons, the Clippers haven’t lost since falling in New Orleans on Nov. 28.
"I am just proud of the guys. It's been a great month for us," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Usually when we win, we jump up and down once or twice in the locker room. But tonight we got to jump up and down about three or four times, so everyone had their fill."
At least once per victory over the Jazz.
"It's frustrating when all three games we had opportunity, a chance, to win," said Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who had 11 assists but was frustrated over his five turnovers. "Not playing the game all the way through for 48 minutes, playing a good team, is not acceptable."
The Jazz couldn't even take advantage of a seven-point, seven-rebound outing by Blake Griffin.
That subpar showing by Captain KIA was overshadowed by the sensational shooting by Caron Butler, who scored 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting. The small forward went 6 for 6 from 3-point range, including hitting all five treys during a 17-point first quarter.
"He's a guy when he gets his rhythm going, he's a rhythm shooter," Corbin said. "He got a couple of good looks and he was able to make some shots early."
The Clippers, who've beaten Utah five times in a row, also got 19 points apiece from Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford along with 14 points from DeAndre Jordan. As a team, they shot 50 percent compared to a 41.3 percent night for the Jazz.
"They've got a lot of guys who can score the basketball," said Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward, who scored 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting. "They've got some veteran guys who know how to play this game, so they can be a difficult team to guard."
The Jazz were both proud that they were able to fight their way back into this one but also disappointed that it unraveled after they took the lead. Utah was upset about making 16 turnovers.
It didn't help that the Jazz had their lowest-scoring quarter in the fourth: 20 points.
"We gave it our all," Derrick Favors said. "We put our best effort out. We just came up short. We've just got to make more shots."
"We definitely had some fight in us, which was good," Hayward said. "We could have laid down pretty easy, but we're not going to do that."
Even so, the Jazz locker room was a somber, tense spot yet again.
That was especially the case when Paul Millsap was asked about being frustrated after not playing in the fourth quarter in favor of Favors.
Millsap bristled a terse reply: "What you think? I'll let you answer that."
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