FINAL | Dec. 28, 2012 | EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT 

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Eric Patten

SALT LAKE CITY–Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro has said the Clippers have won in a variety of ways during their historical winning streak. Still, most of them have come in lopsided fashion.

On Friday, though, in the second game of a back-to-back, the Clippers needed a seemingly improbable second-half rally.

After falling into a 19-point hole with 8 minutes left in the third quarter at Energy Solutions Arena the Clippers charged back, stealing away a 116-114 win over the Jazz and extending their franchise-record winning streak to 16.

“It’s a good test. I’m proud of the guys,” Del Negro said. “Give Utah credit, our guys battled back, and found a way to win and that’s what it’s all about. They didn’t give up, they stayed together. We weathered the storm when we had to, and gave ourselves a chance, and fortunately, we were able to make enough plays.”

Once the Clippers (24-6) pulled within striking distance of the Jazz (15-16), they got plays from a number of individuals. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin scored nine points in three possessions, converting baskets and the ensuing free throws after drawing fouls. And with the game in the balance Chris Paul knocked down a jump shot over Gordon Hayward and made three of his final four free throws before Randy Foye’s long 3-pointer fell astray at the buzzer.

In a way, it was reminiscent of the third win of the Clippers’ streak, when they came to Utah on Dec. 3 and squeaked out a one-point victory after trailing by 10 in the final period.


“We haven’t been tested like that in a while. It was a gut-check for us,” reserve guard Jamal Crawford said. “We probably haven’t been tested like that since we were here last. A grind out game, down double-digits in the fourth quarter.”

Difference Maker: While Paul’s basket and two trips to the free throw line down the stretch made the difference on the scoreboard, it was the Clippers’ defense that heeded the comeback. Jordan, who played the final 6:26 of the game, made two 3-point plays, including one after an offensive rebound by Matt Barnes, and helped neutralize Utah center Al Jefferson.

“Jefferson was hurting us and I wanted his length on him,” Del Negro said. “And offensively I think [Jordan] did a good job around the rim. He was active on the offensive glass for us. He got some 3-point plays. He was knocking his free throws down. We’ll ride with him then, when he’s going like that.”

Paul agreed with Del Negro’s assessment of Jordan’s impact defensively. “Their bigs are really good and they were pounding it inside and [Jordan] got the stops when we needed him to.”

Difference Maker 2: While Jordan’s defense on the interior was key, Barnes helped slow down former Clippers guard Randy Foye on the perimeter. After scoring 24 points in the first two and a half quarters, a combination of Barnes, Crawford and Caron Butler helped foil Foye. He finished with just four more points on the night, and was hounded by Barnes on the final shot that missed short from two steps behind the 3-point line.

“We put Matt on Randy Foye because Randy had an excellent night shooting the basketball,” Del Negro said. “Randy hit some tough shots. He got off to too hot of a start and then early in the third quarter we made that change.”

Moment of Truth: With the crowd on its feet for the majority of the final four minutes, which volleyed between a three-point advantage and four-point deficit, the play the ultimately decided the game came with a few precious ticks remaining on the clock. After a pair of free throws by Jefferson tied the game, Paul, who had scored over Hayward a possession earlier, isolated at the top on Hayward again. This time as he skirted around a ball screen from Jordan, he got bumped from behind by Jefferson, who blitzed the pick. Paul stepped to the line and made both free throws to untie the game and send the Clippers back to L.A. with a victory.

Afterwards, Paul broke down how the team’s final possession developed: “I missed that free throw with 17 seconds left. I wasn’t too nervous because even if they get the two free throws, we get the last shot. I get a chance to end the game. As I was dribbling, I thought Jamaal Tinsley was going to come double me, and try to get the ball out of my hands. And then when [Jordan] came up for the ball screen, I wasn’t worried about Hayward, I was looking at Al Jefferson and I could tell he was about to blitz me. Any time two guys come trap me, I’m always going to attack the slower guy. If they wouldn’t have called the foul, I was right around Al anyway.”

Stat Line of the Night: Griffin notched another big game against Utah, going for 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 8-of-9 from the line, 13 rebounds, and three steals, including two lobs to Jordan. He also forced a tough runner by Paul Millsap on Utah’s third to last possession, eventually collecting the rebound when Barnes tipped it out to him.

More Stats: 

Jordan. Playing the most minutes (33) that he has the Clippers’ last visit to Utah, he finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. It was Jordan’s fifth double-double on the year.

Paul had a season-high 29 points to lead all scorers, adding six assists.

Foye. Despite cooling off late, he still scored a season-high 28 points, going 5-for-9 from 3-point range and adding five rebounds.

Hot: Both teams from the foul line. The Jazz went 37-of-40 (92.5%) from the free throw line, marking the first time since 1995 that they made at least 37 free throws and shot at least 92%. Three players attempted eight or more, including 11 for Hayward. The Clippers were not as adept, but still managed 33-of-41 (80.5%) with Paul earning a game-high 14 foul shots, making all but one.

Not: The Clippers in the second quarter. After outscoring their opponents in 23 games this season, the game turned in the second quarter when the Clippers bench could not keep Utah’s reserves out of the lane or off the free throw line.

“The bench tonight in the second quarter I thought was a little lethargic,” Del Negro said. “[The Jazz] jumped on us. They were more aggressive. They were getting to the free throw line. They were beating us down in transition.”

The Jazz went 14-of-15 from the line in the quarter and outscored the Clippers’ bench 26-4. At one point in the quarter, the Clippers were assessed defensive fouls on four consecutive possessions with an illegal screen by Jordan sandwiched in between.  

Quotables:

On the game:

Griffin: “This one is a great win for us because we kind of needed a challenge and something to prove not only everybody else but to ourselves that we can still win close games like this and win a game down 19 in the third quarter.”

Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin: “It’s all tough. On our home court. We had a lead we gave up the lead but we continued to fight. We made some mistakes but we fought our way through it and had a chance to win the ball game at the end. Unfortunately they got a lot of free throws.”

On the difference in the game:

Crawford: “We dug it. We did it with our defense. When the defense is clicking the offense becomes easy. For us, it’s all about getting stops and getting in transition and getting easy baskets.”

On his 3-point plays in the fourth quarter:

Jordan: “That was good, man. It really boosted my confidence. And I did call glass on a couple of those. I called glass. I said it in my head.”

Notes: It is the 23rd winning streak in NBA history to last at least 16 games… Jazz guard Mo Williams (thumb) did not play against his former team… The Clippers are a league-best 10-3 on the road... L.A. picked up its third straight victory in Salt Lake City, the last time the franchise won three straight in Salt Lake was 1979-1981 as the San Diego Clippers… Hayward had 17 points for the Jazz… According to Del Negro, Lamar Odom “twisted” his right ankle late in the first quarter. “He’s a pro. He’ll be ready to go,” Del Negro said. “He’s alright.”

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