Game #32 | December 28, 2013
Staples Center | Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES – That’s what stars are for.
With the Clippers struggling to find their way against the lowly Utah Jazz Saturday night at Staples Center, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul shouldered every bit of the load as they narrowly escaped a third loss in a row, 98-90.
Nothing , perhaps, personified Griffin’s 40-point, 10-rebound game more than when he scored or earned free throws on seven of eight possessions for the Clippers in the fourth quarter. Griffin went 13-for-20 from the field and 14-for-17 from the free throw line, fouling out Derrick Favors and helping draw five on Jazz center Enes Kanter.
“With Blake down there like that, he commands double-teams and if you don’t double him he’s one of those guys that can face up, he can back you down, he can get you into the bonus,” Paul said. “When they do start trapping it gets us open shots.”
Paul, who was chasing his first triple-double as a member of the Clippers, scored 21 points with 10 rebounds, nine assists and five steals. He helped seal the game with back-to-back assists in the final two minutes, dropping one into Griffin for a dunk and ripping the ball away from Kanter underneath the basket and finding Jamal Crawford open in the left corner for a 3-pointer that extended the Clippers’ lead to eight.
Crawford had 13 points. No other Clipper scored in double figures against the Jazz (9-24), owners of the worst record in the Western Conference.
The Clippers (21-11), who have won five in a row at home, were coming off an emotional set of back-to-back road losses. The Jazz were playing a night after a home victory over the Lakers in Salt Lake City. For most the first half, it looked like it.
It was the second game in a row the Clippers failed to reach 20 points in the first quarter and both teams were slow to the punch and careless. At one point there were more combined fouls committed than made field goals.
“It was just one of those nights,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s funny. I thought our guys played hard. They tried. We were just flat.”
Griffin and Paul, though, turned it around.
Griffin scored 18 fourth-quarter points and Paul accounted for 19 of the Clippers’ points on either his own baskets or assists.
The Jazz shot just 42.9 percent from the field in the second half, but rookie Trey Burke tied the game at 90 on a pair of free throws with 2:33 to go after he stole an errant pass on Griffin’s eighth turnover of the game. The Jazz, however, would not score again.
Griffin’s dunk, Crawford’s 3-pointer and free throws Paul and Griffin, helped the Clippers close the game on an 8-0 run, something that was predicated on defense, according to the Clippers’ All-NBA forward.
“We got stops,” Griffin said. After two minutes they didn’t score. It’s really what the game came down to.
“You’ve got to get stops. They played hard. They kept running their stuff and they kept hitting shots, so we locked in and that was the difference.”
It was the third game with 40 points or more of Griffin’s career and first since his rookie season. He joined Damian Lillard as the second player in the league this season to tally 35 points or more in consecutive games. He had 35 in Thursday’s loss to Portland.
“He’s good,” Rivers quipped when asked about Griffin. “We’d be dumb if we didn’t throw it to him, if you think about it.”
Aside from Griffin’s performance and Paul’s near triple-double, Rivers said he was pleased with the way his team responded when seemingly nothing was going their way.
“I’m not psychic, but before the game I talked to our guys [and said] there are certain nights we’ve got to find ways to win. And that’s what we’ve got to become, one of those teams,” Rivers said. “We have to be that team that it’s not a blowout, you’re playing hard and things still aren’t going right. But you’ve still got to find a way to win. That’s the team I want us to become someday. I didn’t mean tonight, but I’ll take tonight.”
The Clippers are 13-2 at home this season, which is the second best record in the Western Conference… Paul is the first player in the NBA with at least 21 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and five steals since Baron Davis did so for the Clippers on Jan. 12, 2010… Kanter had 17 points and 12 rebounds off the bench… DeAndre Jordan had 12 rebounds. It’s the 22nd time this season he’s had 12-plus boards in a game… The Clippers shot 3-for-14 from 3-point range, but went 25-of-32 from the foul line… There were 43 fouls committed in the game…
|Clippers guard Chris Paul on Blake Griffin’s growth in three years together:
“This is our third year together. We‘ve both grown as players, as leaders together. It‘s fun, because I know I have moments in the game where I‘m like, ‘Just give me the ball. Give me the ball.‘ It‘s fun to see him in that role now: ‘Hey, man, give it to me, give it to me.‘ You know, there‘s nothing like it.”
|Clippers guard Willie Green on looking ahead to Monday against the Suns:
“We‘ve got to build on tonight. I think tonight was one of those nights where we just didn‘t have it. We weren‘t on our normal pace, our normal execution [tonight].”
|Clippers forward Matt Barnes on the game:
“We started off a little slow and sluggish. We knew to stay in the game we had to play defense. I think our defense was fairly good until our offense started to run.
|Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin on the play of Blake Griffin:
“He‘s a good player, I mean, take none away from it… I thought Enes [Kanter] did a good job, the guys did a good job on fighting him. He made some tremendous plays down there and we came off and doubled him a couple times and made it work but he made some plays. We got to give him credit; he‘s a beast since he‘s been in this league.”
|Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on the sloppy play:
“It was all of us. They trapped us, we bobbled the ball. It was amazing. We missed so many dunks and blocks. It was one of those games and it‘s nice to win them.
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CROWN ROYAL SHOT OF THE GAME