A healthy Los Angeles Clippers squad snapped the nine-game winning streak of the Utah Jazz Friday night, 116-112, and extended their record to 21-9.
Clippers vs Utah Game Summary
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George returned to the lineup for the Clippers as they hosted the Utah Jazz for the second time in three days at Staples Center. Mike Conley was back on the floor for the Jazz. The two full rosters battled to the final buzzer, a heavyweight matchup between two of the NBA’s best.
Utah’s Conley started the first quarter with the hot hand, scoring seven of the Jazz’s first nine points. For the Clippers, neither Leonard not George looked particularly rusty, as both hit buckets to help the Clippers establish an early lead.
Quality took a dip midway through the first when the second unit checked in; play got sloppy and there appeared to be some communication issues on both ends of the floor. The Clippers’ lead narrowed to three, and Ty Lue called a quick time out to discuss the matter.
Immediately after the time out, Lou Williams picked off an inbounds pass and ran it back for a layup. Williams was fantastic early on in this contest.
The play seemed to energize the guys on the floor, play tightened up and the lead grew back to five. Paul George hit a spectacular buzzer-beating three to close the frame, and at the end of one, LA led by eight, 31-23.
The second quarter was the Clippers best of the night, particularly on offense. Players were utilizing driving lanes and aggressively getting in the paint, spacing was good, mid-range shots were falling and the ball was moving freely.
Despite the early effort, the quarter ended with more of a whimper than a roar, with the Clippers failing to convert on a number of consecutive possessions and seemingly unable to get stops. Nonetheless, they held on to a 57-49 lead at the turn.
Notably, the Clippers allowed the Jazz just 4 offensive rebounds in the first two frames, and just as many second chance points. They also protected the ball fairly well, logging just four turnovers (as compared to the Jazz’s eight). Another plus – Utah was unable to convert on any of the Clippers turnovers, while the Clippers converted the Jazz’s errors into 11 first-half points.
Points in the paint also favored the Clippers in the first half, 26 to 24.
The Clippers 3 point shot percentage took a dip in the second quarter, they were 3 for 7 in the first frame and a chilly 3-10 in the second. Not as cold as the Jazz however, Utah shot 26.3% from long in the half.
Clippers Halftime Stats
- Lou Williams: 15 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, 2 steals
- Kawhi Leonard: 12 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound
- Paul George: 9 points, 1 assist, 4 rebounds 1 steal
- Marcus Morris Sr.: 7 points1 assist, 2 rebounds
The Jazz were led by Jordan Clarkson (11 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals) and Bojan Bogdanovic (10 points, 2 assists)
The Clippers have been an excellent third quarter team this season, but Friday’s performance was not quite up to par. In fact, it was the only quarter Utah won during the contest. LA came out slow, the offense was messy and at times appeared disorganized, and they committed five turnovers (one more than they had in the entire first half).
The Clippers’ defense was just as uninspiring. The perimeter defenders simply could not handle the Jazz’s high screens and quick movement. LA’s perimeter defenders always seemed one (or more) steps behind Utah’s guards as they flew down the lane. They were not defending the outside shot particularly well either. The lax defense allowed the Jazz to find their rhythm. By mid-quarter, the Clippers lead had dissolved, and the Jazz forged ahead on some big buckets from Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic. Mitchell was fantastic, connecting for 12 points in the frame.
If not for Kawhi Leonard, who carried the Clippers on his back during the third, this game may have had a different outcome. Leonard registered 12 points in the quarter and made his presence known on the defensive end of the floor as well.
At the end of three the Clippers clung to a four point lead, 79-75.
In the final quarter the Clippers continued to struggle on defense, but they brought a bit more energy to the offensive end of the floor. Guys were active and moving, which freed up shooters like Marcus Morris Sr., who hit a couple of mid range shots early on.
Frustratingly, the Clippers did not take advantage of the minutes when Rudy Gobert was off the floor down the stretch, settling for outside shots when they should have been attacking the rim. Although they had many good looks, the shots were largely unsuccessful. A lost opportunity to put the game away.
After a number of missed shots from outside, Morris Sr. stepped up for the Clippers and hit two big threes to keep LA on top. Welcomed points as Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell were driving through the Clippers’ defense like hot knives through butter on the other end of the floor. The Clippers got other couple of threes, this time from Patrick Beverley, along with some beautiful isolation buckets from Leonard to extend the Clipper’s lead to 10 going into the final minutes.
The Jazz kept it close and interesting right up to the final buzzer, however, hitting quick shot after quick shot in the final two minutes and using fouls wisely, but were never able to get over the hump. After a highly suspect call denying the Clippers the benefit of a clear path foul, Beverley hit two from the charity stripe with 10 seconds left on the clock, making it a two possession game and securing the victory.
Final score: 116-112
Kawhi Leonard was spectacular this outing, leading all scorers with 29 points to go with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. The Clippers also received solid performances from Lou Williams (19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals), Patrick Beverley (17 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists), Marcus Morris Sr. (17 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist) and Paul George (15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal).
Donovan Mitchell was near perfection for Utah, particularly in the second half. He led all scorers with 35 points, and also logged 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Bojan Bogdanovic was second best for the Jazz with 23 points.
Big Men Missing?
Just one note today. What the hell happened to Zu and Serge? The Clippers big men were pretty invisible today, combining for only 12 points. In addition to not making an impact offensively, the big men also seemed checked out on defense as wll. Although the Clippers held the Jazz to a relatively low number of offensive rebounds (6) and second chance points (8), Utah finished the game with a staggering 50 points in the paint (plot twist: Gobert only scored 8 of them). There was no one guarding the rim when the Jazz guards scorched the Clippers’ perimeter defenders off high screens. It was simply too easy for Utah to score.
The Clippers host the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 5 p.m.