Postgame Report: Clippers 96, Jazz 94 - 10//17/12

LOS ANGELES–After the Clippers missed their first four shots Wednesday at Staples Center against the Utah Jazz Blake Griffin chased down a miss along the baseline and dribbled into a layup.

He also slammed into the scorer’s table diving for a loose ball, crashed to the floor after a rough foul from Marvin Williams, and nabbed a steal and dribbled up the sideline to spin into a running bank shot on his way to 23 points in 29 minutes.

Fatigue. Jet Lag. Weary legs. None mattered to Griffin and the Clippers in their home preseason debut, a 96-94 victory over the Jazz.

Despite falling down by as many as 15 points in the first half and playing just three days after returning from a week-long stay in China, the Clippers fought to get back in it and swung the game with a 34-18 third quarter where all five L.A. starters played a majority of the period.

The Clippers bench then held off Utah in the fourth with Jamal Crawford, who had 18 points, once again making play after play down the stretch and Ryan Hollins chipping in a key offensive rebound and blocked shot in the final seconds.

“We came out slow and Coach [Vinny Del Negro] got on us at the half,” said Chris Paul, who had six points and nine assists in 25 minutes. “The third quarter, we came out strong and our defense started up our offense.”

The defense was keyed by DeAndre Jordan, who finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots. Jordan pulled down 10 of the team’s 15 boards in the third, helping ignite the Clipper offense. The second straight game in which Jordan’s activity has led to positive results.  

Matt Barnes had five points and seven rebounds and Eric Bledsoe added 11 points off the bench for the Clippers (2-2) in their fourth preseason game, and first in California, let alone their first in their own building.

“You can play tired, but it’s a mindset of really coming in and being ready,” Griffin said. “In the second half, I thought we did a much better job of coming out and getting stops defensively. That’s going to be our whole key, just like last year, when we get stops defensively it leads to offense.”

For a time, it looked like the Jazz, on the second night of a back-to-back, might blow past the Clippers as they did in a 34-point victory over the Lakers a night earlier in Anaheim. The Clippers failed to convert a field goal over the final 6:49 of the second quarter and generally looked out of sorts with a bench unit that featured four new players (Hollins, Barnes, Crawford and Ronny Turiaf) and backup point guard Eric Bledsoe.

“We’ve got to be better,” Hollins said when asked about the bench’s performance in the first half. “They (the Jazz) were the aggressors. They were getting to the free throw line, getting tip-ins, kind of out working us. That’s our job, that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Preseason games are often about learning something, or taking something away from each game, and Wednesday the Clippers showed they have a keen willingness to compete. Barnes scrapped for rebounds, Paul dug out steals, and even with their second unit in the game for the duration of the fourth quarter, the entire bench was on their feet, engaged, in the final moments.

“I want us to compete,” Del Negro said. “When you compete you give yourself a chance to win. Obviously you want to win, if you’re a competitive person you want to win, but I want to see the development of the team as we move forward. How to execute down the stretch, how to execute out of timeouts, all things we have to do.”

Former Clipper Randy Foye scored a team-high 17 points off the bench for Utah (3-2), but had a tying layup attempt blocked by Hollins and fired an errant 3-pointer to win it at the buzzer.

NOTES

Lamar Odom and Grant Hill did not play for the Clippers. Del Negro said in his pregame news conference that he would rest both veterans… Utah guard Mo Williams (strained right abductor) did not play, but said he may be able to face his former team Saturday in Salt Lake City… Major League Baseball All-Stars Andrew McCutchen and Matt Kemp were in attendance… After committing more than 20 turnovers in each of their first three preseason games, the Clippers reduced that number to 12 against the Jazz.