We got a lot of open looks, but couldn’t score. They made some good shots, but we had a tough time scoring, is the bottom line. When that happens you put so much pressure on your defense. —Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
LOS ANGELES — While most of the town’s sporting eyes were focused at a baseball game just up the road, the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night picked up where they left off a few months ago when they squared off in an epic seven-game series in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
This time, the Clippers came out on top as they dominated the Jazz in the third quarter and got a measure of revenge for last year’s playoffs with a 102-84 victory at Staples Center.
With the loss, the Jazz fell to 2-2 on the season, while the Clippers remained unbeaten at 3-0. The Jazz will try to get back above .500 Wednesday night when they take on Phoenix at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Clippers broke open what had been a close game with an 18-2 run to open the second half while the Jazz starters looked listless as they failed on nine of their first 10 possessions.
The lead got as high as 21 before the Jazz made a spirited comeback in the fourth quarter behind Donovan Mitchell, who scored 15 of his 19 points in the final frame, but the Clippers put it away in the final four minutes.
“We got a lot of open looks but couldn’t score,” said coach Quin Snyder. “They made some good shots, but we had a tough time scoring, is the bottom line. When that happens you put so much pressure on your defense.”
Mitchell led the Jazz in scoring, although it took him 20 shots to get his 19 points, while Rudy Gobert finished with 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting and seven rebounds. Thabo Sefolosha was perhaps Utah’s best player with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“He just kept playing, a little bit like our team,” said Snyder of Mitchell. “He kept playing and was able to get some looks and made a few threes and gave us some life. It was one of those nights where we stuck in the game when we could have folded.”
Ricky Rubio finished with 10 points, but eight came in the opening five minutes of the game as the Clippers adjusted their defense and didn’t give him many open looks as the game went along. Joe Johnson also scored 10 points for the Jazz, who shot 43 percent on the night but just 25 percent from 3-point range.
Mitchell got the start in place of injured Rodney Hood and after a rough start heated up in the fourth quarter with three 3-pointers in a two-minute span to cut the L.A. lead to nine at 83-74. A floater in the lane by Mitchell cut the lead to seven, and a dunk by Favors cut the lead to six at 88-82 with 4:25 left. However, Patrick Beverley sank a jumper and then Austin Rivers hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 11 and that was it for the Jazz.
Blake Griffin, who hit a big 3-pointer when the Jazz had cut the lead to seven, led all scorers with 22 points, while Beverley had 19, Rivers 16 and Gallinari 14. DeAndre Jordan finished with 11 points and 18 rebounds.
Only five of the 10 starters from the last April’s Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs were on hand for Tuesday’s game, which featured nine new players on each team.
Before the game, Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers had joked, “We need name tags for both teams," with the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Beverley and Lou Williams for the Clips and Rubio, Sefolosha and Mitchell for the Jazz.
The Clippers were missing another one of their new players, Milos Teodosic, who suffered a plantar fascia injury in his left foot during the second quarter of the Clippers’ game Saturday night.
The Clippers, who had won their first two games by an average of 29.5 points, took a 42-41 halftime lead thanks to 10 points from Beverley, who joined the team in the offseason from Houston in the trade for Chris Paul. The Clippers were outshot 42 to 37 in the opening half, but had one more 3-pointer and one less turnover.
Rubio was Utah’s offense in the early going as he got himself free for a bunch of 15-foot jumpers with eight early points as the Jazz took a 10-9 lead midway though the first quarter.
At that point, the Staples Center let out a big roar when the final score of the Dodgers 3-1 victory up at Dodger Stadium was flashed on the video board.
It was still 20-20 with 1:30 left in the quarter when the Clippers went on a 7-0 run to close the quarter as the Jazz failed on their last five possessions with three turnovers and two missed shots
The Jazz and Clippers play three more times this season with another game in Los Angeles Nov. 30th and two in Salt Lake on Jan. 20 and April 5.
The Jazz jumped on a plane after the game and headed to Phoenix where they’ll play the Suns Wednesday night.