5 Takeaways from the Clippers’ Critical Win Over the Utah Jazz

5 Takeaways from the Clippers’ Critical Win Over the Utah Jazz

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers moved one crucial step closer to the postseason with a 108-95 win over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon.

Subpar shooting nights from Blake Griffin (6-of-16 from the field, 1-of-5 from three), Chris Paul (5-of-18 overall, 0-of-8 behind the line) and J.J. Redick (4-of-11 from the floor) didn’t hamper the Clippers, thanks to a brilliant night from the bench. Jamal Crawford led three reserves in double digits with a game-high 28 points on 12 field-goal attempts (9-of-9 at the free-throw line).

L.A.’s defense set the tone early, holding Utah to 39.5 percent shooting in the first half and a mere 14 points in the first quarter. After the Jazz made a run in the third, the Clippers rode Crawford’s hot hand atop a stellar effort from the second unit to a 20-point fourth-quarter lead and a season-series-sealing victory against the Jazz.

Quote of the Night

Chris Paul played a pivotal part in recruiting Jamal Crawford to the Clippers as a free agent nearly five years ago. Now, Paul knows Crawford’s game as well as anyone other than the three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner himself.

How, then, can CP tell when Jamal is about to pop off for one of his patented scoring bonanzas?

“We always say, ‘He has his dancing shoes on’,” Paul said, “so when he gets moving, it is trouble for you.”

Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ win.

1) Jamal Balls Out – The Clippers started the final frame in a fragile state, with just two points remaining from what had been a 16-point third-quarter cushion.

Then, Jamal Crawford got hot and gave L.A. more than enough room to breathe easy going into Sunday’s matinee against the Sacramento Kings. He poured in 17 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth, busting out his signature crossover a handful of times to fool Utah’s defenders.

“He is one of those guys where it doesn’t matter whether it’s good defense or bad defense, he makes tough shots,” Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, “and that’s what he has been doing his whole career.”

In Crawford’s mind, he could tell it would be a good day for him in the opening period—first, with a dish to Luc Mbah a Moute for a dunk, then with a 28-foot triple to close the quarter.

Crawford’s explosive performance moved L.A. to 7-7 this season when he scores 20 or more. And with Austin Rivers adding 11 points off the bench, the Clippers are now 4-0 the last four times he and Crawford have hit double digits in the same game.

2) Third-Quarter Quandaries – The Clippers followed up a troubling third quarter in Dallas with another bad start after halftime against the Jazz in L.A. Utah rode a 20-4 run in the latter half of the frame to erase what had been a commanding 16-point lead for the Clippers.

The home team had been in position to thrive through the third. The Clippers were in the bonus for most of the quarter, but drew just four free throws after putting the Jazz in touchy foul territory.

Technical fouls on Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford didn’t help. Neither did DeAndre Jordan’s own trouble with whistles. The Clippers’ All-Star center came out of the game with his fourth foul at the 4:41 mark, parting the seas for Rudy Gobert to score seven quick points.

All told, the third quarter has hardly been the Clippers’ haven of late. Since the All-Star break, L.A. has posted a net rating of minus-5.5 points per 100 possessions in the period—a bottom-10 mark, per NBA.com.

3) Titans Trade Halves – Before his third-quarter foul trouble, Jordan had been a force on the boards for the Clippers. He finished the first half with seven points and 14 rebounds—six on offense, and just five fewer overall than the Jazz had as a team through the two opening quarters.

Jordan, though, would go scoreless with just one more board after the break. Gobert, meanwhile, took advantage, following up a nine-point, seven-rebound first half with 17 and seven in the second.

Despite the post-break disparity between bigs, the Clippers got the job done inside as a team. They outscored the Jazz 58-46 in the paint and outrebounded 48-43, moving the winner of the board battle between these two teams to 3-0 in 2016-17.

4) Peskier on the Perimeter – Defensively, the Clippers took care of business inside and out against the Jazz. They ceded 26 three-point attempts—a season high for Utah against L.A.—but held the visitors to eight makes for 30.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc. That marks a huge improvement over the last meeting between these two, when Utah erupted for 14 threes on just 21 tries.

With Luc Mbah a Moute’s help, the Clippers held Gordon Hayward to 13 points, less than half of what he burned them for in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Joe Ingles, who erupted for 18 points off the pine against L.A. on March 13, didn’t scratch from the field on Saturday and finished with one lonely point.

The most jarring perimeter drop-off on Utah’s end, though, might’ve come from George Hill. He posted a team-worst plus-minus of minus-29 in 32 minutes, 12 days after tallying 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists to take the edge off Chris Paul’s 33-point explosion on the Jazz’s home floor.

5) Clips Clinch – The Clippers’ win officially extended their franchise-record playoff streak into its sixth year. It also sliced the Jazz’s advantage in the race for home-court advantage out West down to a half-game.

At 44-30, L.A. is even with Utah in the win column ahead of its final eight games of the season. Of the remaining slate, the Clippers play six more times at Staples Center and just twice more against teams with winning records. The Jazz, on the other hand, have four more road games among their final nine dates and four against plus-.500 squads—not including two meetings with the Portland Trail Blazers, who are in a dog fight for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot.

Should the Clippers and Jazz finish with identical records, L.A. would get the upper hand in seeding against Utah, thanks to a 3-1 advantage in the season series.