Blake Griffin scored 30 points and DeAndre Jordan made a timely block on Al Jefferson with 27 seconds to go to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a hard fought win over the Utah Jazz at home, 105-104.
The victory was the first home loss of the season for the Jazz, who were a perfect 6-0 before Monday and who hadn’t lost since April of last season. The Clippers led only three times all game before the final minute, then had to hold their collective breath as Randy Foye took a desperation shot at the buzzer on a stolen in bounds pass that could’ve won it for the Jazz.
Early on, the game looked as though it might turn into a blowout as the Jazz raced to a 12 point lead, ending the half up by 10. They stretched it to 13 in the 3rd quarter before the Clippers cut it to 7 to head into the final period.
“In the first half, it was almost a waste of time because no one showed up,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of his team, which was still down 14 late in the third. “Our defense was weak, we were soft and we had no toughness. … But I was very pleased with the way we responded … and made plays down the stretch.”
Mo Williams, who was traded to the Jazz during the off season, scored 20 points and dished out 12 assists, while Randy Foye added 19 points. Paul Millsap managed 13 and Gordon Hayward 17. Curiously, Hayward was on the bench for the final six minutes.
Chauncey Billups, still showing a little rust from his long layoff, scored 9 points in 22 minutes of play, though he did commit a costly foul on Foye that sent him to the line for three free throws as time wound down.
Chris Paul was efficient with 14 points and 9 assists in 37 minutes, despite the Jazz constantly double teaming him and forcing him to give up the ball early on numerous possessions. Paul’s timely layup in the last 60 seconds gave the Clippers their first lead since the opening quarter and forced Utah to use a timeout.
Jamal Crawford came off the bench to pump in 20 points, including a ridiculously impossible corner 2 as he was pushed out of bounds. Matt Barnes was solid again on defense, while Lamar Odom continued to improve and show why he’ll be a force as he works his way back into shape. Odom’s 7 points, 6 rebounds, and floor presence were vital down the stretch as he disrupted the Jazz on several possessions.
But it was Griffin who dominated with a plethora of highlight reel dunks, layups, and effective jumpers, even collecting 11 rebounds as he kept highly active defensively in his 37 minutes of play. Griffin repeatedly bulled his way inside against the Jazz big men to score and made 2 of 3 from the free throw line.
In the end, however, it was DeAndre Jordan’s spectacular block on Al Jefferson’s short floater that swung momentum decidedly in the Clippers’ favor. As Paul Millsap received an entry pass down low from Randy Foye, he hit a cutting Jefferson for a seemingly easy floater. Jordan stayed home and rotated over, soaring high to reject the shot over to a scrambling Chauncey Billups in the corner and the Jazz were forced to foul the rest of the way.
“That block was the play of the game,” Chris Paul said. “DJ had to cover a lot of ground to get there and block that shot.”
With their 3rd straight win, the Clippers move to 11-6 and remain in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division, with the Jazz falling to 9-10.
Next up, the Clippers play the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Milestone: Jamal Crawford hit his 48th straight free throw, breaking the previous Clippers record of 44 by Mark Jackson.
Topics: Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers, Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Clippers, Matt Barnes, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Vinny Del Negro