LOS ANGELES — The Utah Jazz's game Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers didn't exactly feel like a preseason game.
For one thing, the Jazz didn't wipe the court with that other team from L.A.
For another, both teams actually looked like they were playing like this one mattered.
Adding to the atmosphere, the Staples Center crowd of 14,617 was much louder, rowdier and more enthusiastic than you'd expect in the exhibition season — even when fans weren't trying to get the attention of courtside Kardashians or Dodger star Matt Kemp.
More than anything, though, the intensity and emotional nature in the Clippers' down-to-the-wire 96-94 victory over the Jazz was off the charts for this time of year.
"Guys started competing. It got a little chippy out there," said Jazz power forward Paul Millsap, who exchanged words with Clipper star Blake Griffin. "We didn't want to lose. We're trying to win every game. We're still trying to get better as a team. The only way we can do that is get out there and compete."
Despite bursts of competitiveness and feistiness, the Jazz didn't shoot particularly well (40.7 percent), made 17 turnovers and were outscored by 18 points in the pivotal third quarter.
But even after blowing an early double-digit lead, Utah rallied out of an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and had chances to win or force a rare preseason overtime.
That didn't happen, though, after an overall solid return to Clipperland by Randy Foye ended on a couple of sour notes.
With the Jazz trailing by two in the waning moments, Foye drove in for a game-tying layup attempt. Seven-foot center Ryan Hollins, however, timed a block so perfectly that the 6-4 Foye's shot landed somewhere near the Hollywood sign.
Foye had one last chance to be a preseason hero on his old home court, but the Jazz guard's potential game-winning 3-point attempt had too much oomph on it and soared over the rim.
Foye, who saw a lot of action in a backup point guard role, finished with a team-high 17 points, including a terrific night from 3-point land (4-for-8) and a rough outing inside the arc (2-for-7). It was the second double-digit night in a row for Foye, who struggled in his first three exhibition outings.
"He's feeling a lot more comfortable with what he is in this system," Corbin said.
Griffin led all scorers with 23 points, including a couple of patented Lob City alley-oop dunks. After one power jam, Griffin received a technical foul for jawing with Millsap.
That wasn't the only intense moment.
New Clipper Matt Barnes might have ignited the extra-intense night off by being, well, Matt Barnes — in other words, being someone who doesn't mind getting under opponents' skin.
Barnes did that in the first half when he grabbed Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll from behind and wouldn't let him go after the foul. A fired-up Carroll, never one to back down, responded with some talk of his own and then got some revenge by blocking Barnes' shot on the next Clipper possession.
"This is going to be one of the teams we're going to compete against in the West all year long," Corbin said when asked about the spirited feel of the game.
On a night the Jazz played without starting point guard Mo Williams (groin) and Derrick Favors (knee), Corbin was particularly complimentary of a second unit that included Foye, Alec Burks (nine points), Enes Kanter (14 points, nine rebounds), Carroll (eight points, seven boards) and Jeremy Evans (six points, four blocked shots).
That group helped Utah turn an 11-point hole into a tied game in the final minutes after the Clippers outscored the Jazz 34-16 in a sluggish third quarter.
"I have nothing but respect for our guys in the fourth quarter. We hung in there, fought back and still had an opportunity to win at the end," Corbin said. "(The second unit) they've done a great job all exhibition season."
While Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had crowd-pleasing dunks, the Clipper faithful also got loud on a back-and-forth series that starred the defending NBA Slam Dunk champion.
Evans swatted a shot by Ronny Turiaf, tipped it to himself and raced down court for a soaring tomahawk slam the ball over the Clipper big man. As if that weren't impressive enough on its own, Evans then busted it to the other end of the floor to slap the ball away from the Clippers again to foil a fast-break attempt.3 comments on this story
"Oh man. Incredible," Corbin marveled. "It was a great learning lesson, just playing with effort and the desire that he showed to make those three plays in one — to get a blocked shot, to go down to make a dunk, to come back and get his hands on the ball and stop them from getting a layup on the other end." Added Millsap: "Effort man. That's what we need — effort. (He) blocked the shot, got on the other end, dunked the ball, got back in transition and almost got a steal. We're going to need that effort going throughout the season."
GAME NOTES: Jazz fans can only hope Saturday's rematch is half as intense and exciting as this one. … Rookie Kevin Murphy and roster hopefuls Brian Butch, Darnell Jackson, Chris Quinn and Trey Gilder did not play. … Corbin said he took a couple extra minutes in an unusually long postgame team chat to emphasize the importance of things like "playing with energy and playing smart on both ends."