|CLIPPERS SNAP 16-GAME SKIP IN SALT LAKE - |
Eric Patten (@ericpatten)
Sometimes selfishness is a good thing.
With small forward Caron Butler out of the lineup nursing a stiff lower back, superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin seemed to take it upon themselves to wipe out a 16-game losing streak at EnergySolutions Arena that spanned more than eight years.
Still, it took a handful of unheralded plays, six free throws from Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams, and the seemingly customary late-game magic from Paul to edge the Jazz, 107-105, on Wednesday night.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Clippers (13-6), who got a season-high 34 points and 11 assists from Paul and 31 points and 14 rebounds from Griffin, and the emotion showed at the end.
“This was a pretty good win for us,” Paul said. “Last time we were here they pretty much embarrassed us. I was sitting over here in a suit [with an injured hamstring]. The fans were on us and different things like that. We really wanted this game.”
The teams exchanged baskets and leads down the stretch, but the Clippers took command when Paul upped his aggressiveness. He carved up the Utah defense. He went coast-to-coast after a rebound and threw in a no-look right-handed reverse layup. He yo-yo dribbled Devin Harris into a fade-away from the right side. And drilled another fade-away over Gordon Hayward after wide step to his right from top of the key to give the Clippers a 96-92 lead.
“To have [Paul] on our side is a blessing,” Griffin told Prime Ticket after the game.
But the Clippers got clutch plays from more than just their otherworldly point guard.
He finished with 19 points off the bench.
“I like the way we battled tonight, especially on the road,” said Del Negro, whose team won their second game in a row as the visiting team after starting the season 1-4. “Chris made plays, Mo did, too. It’s a good team win.”
The Clippers opened the game with five dunks before the Utah patrons had finished filing into the arena. Five seconds after winning the opening tip, Paul found Griffin for a lob. Next came a lob to Jordan and three more dunks by Griffin all before the 8-minute mark in the first quarter.
The hot start was key after L.A. dug itself a 13-2 hole in the previous meeting, a 29-point loss. Despite allowing Utah to shoot 61% from the field in the first half, including 9-of-11 from Jefferson, the Clippers hung around.
And after three second-half possessions they had their first lead since the early minutes of the second quarter. Griffin blocked a baseline jumper by Millsap, ran the floor, and threw down a two-handed dunk on the break off a dish from Billups. The play led to a quick timeout from Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin.
The Jazz, led by Jefferson’s 27 points and 12 rebounds, never relented.
With the Clippers leading 101-96 with 16 seconds to go, Millsap made a 3-pointer over Griffin, which was followed by two free throws from Billups.
Griffin picked up a chase down block on a layup attempt by Harris in the first and finished with three blocks on the night. He has 11 in the last three games. The Clippers are 5-0 when Griffin records at least two blocked shots… The Clippers had lost 42 of the previous 43 games in Utah… During an impressive sequence in the final seconds, Griffin caught an inbound pass alone near midcourt, broke toward the offensive end, and used his strength to convert a layup while being fouled by Jefferson. He finished off the sequence by making the free throw… Jordan was 2-for-2 from the free throw line… It was the fifth double-double of the year for Paul and 12th for Griffin… The Clippers scored 32 points in the first quarter. It’s the eighth time in 15 games that they’ve topped 29 or more to start the game.
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