FINAL | February 23, 2013 | STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA 

Clippers

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94

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107

 

ERIC PATTEN  

LOS ANGELES – It may have taken a half to completely wipe away their last game, but over the final 24 minutes Saturday night the Clippers were back to playing with the energy and edge they said was so absent two days earlier.

An enthralling third quarter, in which the Clippers outscored the Utah Jazz by 16, was all it took, as they won for the fifth time in their last six games, 107-94, sweeping the season series over Utah for the first time in more than 30 years.  

Their bounce returned after losing by a season-worst 26 points Thursday to top-seeded San Antonio in the team’s first game following last weekend’s All-Star break. The Clippers (40-18) became the third team in the league behind the Spurs and Thunder to reach 40 wins on the season and got there faster than in any previous season in franchise history.

“We were just a lot more focused,” Chauncey Billups said. “The San Antonio game left a really bad taste in our mouths.”

Blake Griffin scored 18 points, including 12 in short order during the Clippers’ third quarter run when they turned a two-point halftime lead into a 16-point advantage behind a 14-0 start to the period.

“[The game changed] with our intensity and effort,” Griffin said. “At halftime we talked about coming out and getting stops, everybody playing on the same page, everybody playing for each other. It wasn’t a whole lot of things we did at halftime in terms of changing our defensive scheme or changing up some offensive things. It was really just effort.”

No one exemplified the effort more than Griffin. He was dogged and relentless, scrambling defensively and flying around the court. He had a reverse layup, put-back dunk and two 3-point plays in the14-point run. Two possessions after Al Jefferson halted it with a layup, Griffin stole the ball from Derrick Favors, chased it down, sliding towards the sideline on his chest and saved it to Billups, who kicked it to Caron Butler in the corner for a 3-pointer and a 70-51 lead.

“[Griffin’s] a problem. He’s so tough to defend,” said Chris Paul, who finished with 11 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. “When he’s attacking the basket you almost have to foul him. As long as he stays aggressive like that it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Griffin certainly had help. Butler scored 11 of his team-high 21 points in the third-quarter outburst and Lamar Odom added 18 points off the bench, his highest scoring output since Jan. 27, 2012 when he was a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

Jamal Crawford was 5-of-9 for 12 points and DeAndre Jordan had a dozen rebounds, securing his fifth double-digit rebounding performance in his last nine games.

“I was pleased,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Lamar obviously had some big shots for us. I thought Eric Bledsoe did a good job picking up his defensive pressure. I thought DJ (Jordan) overall did a very good job on Jefferson. Caron, Blake, we had a nice contribution from Jamal. Everybody contributed tonight. It was a good team win for us which we needed.”

The Clippers looked different from the opening minutes of Saturday night’s win than they did Thursday. They were pressuring Utah’s perimeter players, crashing the defensive glass and pushing the ball at every opportunity. Butler asserted himself immediately, knocking down a 3-pointer and turnaround jumper on the second and third possessions, helping the Clippers to a 23-13 lead.

There were times when they didn’t hit shots and even seemed a little out of kilter offensively, as evidenced by their 22 turnovers on the night, but the effort was there. It waned, though, as the first half progressed and despite grabbing a lead as large as 10 in the first quarter and nine in the second, the Clippers allowed Utah to hang around. The Jazz (31-25) led by as many three before Paul scored the final five points of the half over a 1:31 span.

Paul Millsap, who picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter and was limited from there on out, scored 15 of Utah’s first 16 points of the game. He finished with 19 points, but it was hardly enough to counter a 41.7% shooting night from his team that included a 1-for-15 effort from 3-point range and three starters being held without a point.

NOTES

Saturday was the fifth time in the last six games the Clippers have topped 100 points and won by 10 or more points... The Clippers committed 22 turnovers, compared to Utah’s 16… They outrebounded the Jazz, 46-39… Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward scored a game-high 23 points… Bledsoe had four points, six assists and two steals in 20:25… The Clippers swept the season series against the Jazz for the first time since 1978-79 when they were in San Diego and the Jazz were in New Orleans… They own a six-game winning streak overall against the Jazz, one short of matching the longest streak in franchise history over Utah.

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