Paul’s 33 points not enough, Clippers fall to Jazz 114-108
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz have racked up significant wins over playoff teams in the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets in the last six days.
For a team that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2012, those are statement wins.
Gordon Hayward scored 27 points and Utah broke a nine-game home losing streak to the Clippers with a 114-108 victory Monday night.
The victory gave the Jazz a two-game lead over the Clippers in the race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round.
“Excited for us as a team with how we’ve played,” Hayward said. “It was a big step to go into Houston and win and then win tonight.
“The last two times we’ve played (the Clippers) we’ve laid an egg offensively. … For us to score the basketball like we did tonight was good for us as a team. It gave us some confidence.”
Utah scored 40 points in the third quarter, a season-high for any quarter, after trailing much of the first half. George Hill was much more aggressive on the offensive end after a sluggish first half and the Jazz missed just four of 17 shots in the period while hitting all six 3-point attempts.
“I felt like we weren’t turning the ball over and sometimes you’re just kind of due,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We were sharing the ball and sometimes they go in. You look awful good when they go in.
“We’ve had some 15-point quarters lately, so they’ve got to average out a little bit, right?”
Chris Paul had 33 points, six rebounds and seven assists for the Clippers.
The Clippers never figured out how to slow Hayward, whose back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Jazz a 103-92 lead. Hill finished with 19 points and Joe Ingles scored 18 off the bench.
Los Angeles cut the lead to 107-103 late, but back-to-back buckets by Joe Johnson put away the game.
“They wanted this game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They took the game. We played great in the first half and had a lead. I thought we should have had a bigger lead at halftime to be honest. I thought that was our chance to separate and we didn’t.”
The Clippers led 56-49 at halftime thanks to a dominant 18-point half from Paul and a stretch of eight straight points from Austin Rivers.
J.J. Redick added 16 points for the Clippers.
“We got to get it together,” Paul said. “I’d much rather be playing the right way and be playing consistently on both ends and lose a couple of games, but know going into the playoffs we’ve got our principles. We’re still working on them.
“It sucks, but you got to do it. If we were ready for everything right now, we might be peaking too soon, so hopefully we hit it at the right time.”
Clippers: The Clippers shot 58.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc in the first half, but led by just seven at the break. … The Clippers held the Jazz to an average of 73.5 points in their first two meetings before Monday.
Jazz: Derrick Favors was held out with a bone contusion in his left knee and will be re-evaluated later in the week. It’s his third straight missed game and his 18th of the season due to an issue with the left knee.
Rivers said he’s not concerned with the race between the Jazz, Clippers, Thunder and Grizzlies for the No. 4 playoff seed.
“Yeah, we would like whoever is the 30th seed … we’d prefer that,” Rivers said. “Other than that, you’ve just got to get ready in the playoffs.
“I’ve always laughed at three (seed), four, let’s get five. That’s ridiculous. If you’re trying to win it all, you’re going to play the good teams eventually. You just have to be ready for it.”
Clippers: Los Angeles hosts All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
Jazz: Rudy Gobert and Utah travel to face Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday in a matchup of two of the league’s best centers.