FINAL | Dec. 30, 2012 | STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA  

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Eric Patten

LOS ANGELES–You could call the Utah Jazz pesky or “scrappy” as Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro did two days ago, but something about the short-handed Jazz has given the Clippers fits over the last month.

Utah was game again on Sunday night, but the Clippers, powered by 24 points in the fourth quarter by Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul, won their 17th game in a row, defeating the Jazz, 107-96, at Staples Center.

The Clippers (25-6) are the 17th team in NBA history to win at least 17-straight games and first since the 2007-08 Boston Celtics won 19 in a row en route to the NBA title. They also completed just the third 16-0 month in league history, joining the 1995-96 Spurs, who Del Negro played for, and the 1971-72 Lakers.

“It’s something that just kind of keeps happening,” Blake Griffin said of the win streak. “We don’t really talk about it and it wasn’t like we said, ‘Okay guys we’ve got to try to win all of our games in December.’ It just happened. It’s a tribute to everyone in there. Everyone’s been a huge part.

“We’re having a blast. We’re having fun. It’s not one of those things where there’s so much pressure to keep winning or keep going. We’re just going out and playing.”


The game, the second in a row against Utah (15-17), turned down the stretch when Crawford made a couple of tough baskets at the rim and got to the free throw line. He finished with 19 points off the bench on 7-of-16 shooting as the Clippers turned a three-point game with 9:09 left into the 12th double-digit win of their historical streak.

Difference Maker: Crawford. With the team clinging to a two-point lead three minutes into the fourth quarter, Crawford hit a long 3-pointer against the shot clock to stretch the lead to 86-81. He went on to score nine of the next 10 points for the Clippers and finish with 11 in the period, 19 for the game. Later in the fourth, Crawford passed the scoring baton to Paul, who had 13 in the quarter and closed the game out from the free throw line. But Crawford’s run of pull-up jumpers, layups and free throws powered the Clippers with Paul resting on the bench.

Moment of Truth: Perhaps the enduring moment from the fourth quarter, when the Clippers held off the Jazz, came in a two-play sequence. Crawford hit the aforementioned bailout 3-pointer from straightaway as the shot clock dwindled down and on the ensuing Jazz possession Eric Bledsoe poked the ball off Earl Watson’s knee out of bounds. Matt Barnes headed back up the court waving his arms to incite the crowd and it seemed like an emotional jolt for the Clippers down the stretch.

Moment of Truth, Part 2: With the Jazz desperate to stay close, Head Coach Tyrone Corbin elected to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan off the ball on consecutive possessions. It did not work. Jordan went 3-of-4 from the line on those trips, and capped off the night with two more makes on the team’s second to last possession, even yelling “bank” as the ball smacked off the backboard before going through the net.

“I said [bank] in my head in Utah,” Jordan said. “And tonight I figured I’d just say because you guys (the media) probably didn’t believe me.”


Stat Line of the Night: Caron Butler. It was reminiscent of his season-high scoring game against the New Orleans, when he got going from 3-point range and seemingly could not miss. He set a franchise record with nine shots from beyond the arc that night and came close again Sunday, going 6-for-6, including a perfect 5-for-5 in the first quarter, on his way to 29 points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist.

More Stats: 

Paul. The point guard commanded the game when needed and commandeered it later. He had 19 points, nine assists and five steals. It was the fifth time this season the league’s leader in thefts has had at least five steals in one game.

Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf. Playing on a gimpy right ankle, Odom did not score but had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Turiaf, who was also thrust into action with a sore elbow, had three points, five rebounds and a rejection of a runner by Enes Kanter in the second quarter.  

Al Jefferson. He scored a game-high 30 points with eight rebounds and four blocks. Jefferson got most of his work done during the third quarter when the Jazz briefly took a lead, 76-75, on his layup with 2:04 left in the period. He scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the third.

Hot: Butler. See above or click here.

Not: Griffin. He got in foul trouble and managed just five shots, making three of them. He also missed four of his five free throws and was assessed a technical foul in the first quarter. Even on a night in which he played 25:45 and sat most of the third quarter with four fouls, Griffin still managed seven rebounds and three assists.  

“I got in foul trouble, but there’s other ways to impact the game and other guys were shooting it well, other guys were scoring,” Griffin said.

Quotables:

On winning streak:

Vinny Del Negro: “I am just proud of the guys. It’s been a great month for us. Usually when we win, we jump up and down once or twice in the locker room. But tonight we got to jump up and down about three or four times so everyone had their fill. But now they’re playing their music and relaxing and enjoying. And they deserve it.”

On play of Blake Griffin:

Paul: “They tried to take Blake out of the game early and he got some early fouls. The other thing was that they doubled him from the jump and I think that that’s the ultimate respect when you get double teamed and Blake did a great job of finding the open guys.”

On perfect December record:

Barnes: “They said it’s the third team in history to do something like that (go 16-0 in a month), so it’s definitely impressive. Unfortunately, everyone else at the top of the West is playing so well, we haven’t been able to distance ourselves. It’s important we continue to stay consistent and play good basketball.”

On losing last three to Clippers:

Jamaal Tinsley: “It’s frustrating. Knowing that they’re a good team and knowing that we’re always right there with them, knowing that we need to keep on playing good for 48 minutes. We can give ourselves a chance to win by taking care of the ball, blocking out, not giving them second opportunity shots, and just playing hard.”

Notes: The Clippers and Jazz combined for 144 free throw attempts in the last two games… Gordon Hayward scored 16 points off the bench for Utah… The Clippers edged the Jazz in rebounding, 41-38… Utah assisted on 29 of their 33 field goals… It was the lowest scoring game of the month for Griffin, who finished with seven points… Clippers forward Grant Hill addressed the crowd prior to the game. “On behalf of my teammates, coaches and everyone in the Clippers organization,” Hill said. “We want to wish you a safe, healthy and happy New Year”

 

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