Five Takeaways: Clippers’ Best Defense This Season Stifles Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY – The Clippers (34-21) completely stifled a Jazz team (34-22) they’ve now beaten in 17 of their last 18 matchups, somehow finding a way to put together their strongest defensive performance of the season on the last game of a five-game road trip and on their 10th road matchup in their last 11 games overall.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ 88-72 win.
Quote of the Night: “We did such a poor job at the beginning of the trip, our backs were kind of against the wall. It’s encouraging to see what we’re made of when that happens.” – Blake Griffin
1) Defensive domination – The Clippers entered the night having allowed at least 100 points each of their previous 11 games, a stretch that also included them allowing a league-worst 117.5 points per 100 possessions, but they saw elements of defensive improvements in recent nights. To say they finally put it all together defensively Monday night would be an understatement.
The Clippers held the Jazz to fewer than 50 points after three quarters, building enough of a cushion with a 76-49 lead at the time to survive a Utah fourth-quarter spurt. A Blake Griffin 3-pointer put the game away, as the Clippers allowed their fewest points in a game this season. It’s the second time the Clippers allowed fewer than 80 points this year, and the first time was also against the Jazz.
2) Starters unstoppable – The Jazz simply had no answer for the Clippers’ starters, who all finished plus-23 or better on the night, despite only three of them scoring in double figures. Utah couldn’t figure out how to score the Clippers’ starting five. With DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin controlling the inside, Austin Rivers holding George Hill to a 2-for-11 night and Luc Mbah a Moute forcing Gordon Hayward to shoot 2-for-12. By night’s end, the Jazz shot just 32.2 percent – the worst shooting percentage of any Clippers opponent this season.
3) Griffin follows up Player of the Week honors with another gem – As the Jazz started to creep back in late, nearly cutting the Clippers’ comfortable lead down to single digits, Blake Griffin slammed the door on any Jazz hopes. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, who averaged 26 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game last week, continued his scoring start to February by leading the Clippers in points (26) and assists (six) Monday night, also adding 10 rebounds and providing the dagger with an 18-foot jumper and a 3-pointer in the final minutes.
Griffin, who’s one of two players averaging at least 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game in February, said timing and rhythm are typically the two parts of his game that take the longest to return after an injury, but neither have posed any threat to his production.
4) Rivers run – Beyond his defense on Hill, it was Rivers putting the Clippers in firm control in the second quarter after the Jazz left the first quarter with the lead. Rivers’ back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Clippers a 39-27 lead, at that point their first double-digit lead of the game. At halftime, Rivers was the game’s leading scorer with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists, giving him his second straight game with at least 15 points.
5) Jordan backs up Snyder’s compliments – Jazz head coach Quin Snyder did what he typically does before he faces the Clippers, praising the work of DeAndre Jordan for reasons beyond his physical talents and defensive capabilities. Snyder complimented Jordan’s basketball smarts, as the center is often able to steal Utah’s calls and adjust the defense accordingly.
“He knows what we’re doing on the court, so it’s almost like baseball to get anything by him,” Snyder said. “You have to have an indicator.” Minutes later, Jordan was blocking a shot in the first quarter and scoring on the other end with a right-handed baby hook. Jordan finished the first half with 10 points and seven rebounds and ended the night with a double-double, also adding three blocks.
What’s Next? – The Clippers return home to play their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday against the Hawks.