Los Angeles • Al Jefferson’s not panicking. Neither is Tyrone Corbin.
Despite watching the Jazz drop their fourth game in five Saturday during a 105-96 defeat to the Clippers at Staples Center, Utah’s offensive centerpiece and coach said the same thing.
Are the Jazz (27-26) putting their season on the line at a very dangerous time? Undoubtedly.
With the loss, Utah fell 1.5 games behind Houston and Denver for eighth place in the Western Conference with 13 contests remaining.
Are Jefferson and Corbin worried or concerned? Not at all.
“We still believe in each other and we’re still going to fight until it’s all said and done,” said Jefferson, who scored a co-game high 26 points but recorded just four rebounds. “We’ve been counted out before. But all we’ve got to do now is put [together] five or six games in a row and we’ll be right back there where we were at.”
But after Utah fell behind 38-22 to Los Angeles in just 12 minutes, trailed by as many as 19, and was down by 17 early during the fourth quarter, it’s getting harder to reconcile a Jazz team that won six consecutive games from March 15-23 with one that’s dropped three straight.
Utah was bullied by Boston, outpowered by lowly Sacramento and outgunned by a surging Clippers (31-21) squad that shot 54.2 percent from the field and hit 10 of 21 3-point attempts.
Devin Harris also preached calmness in the face of adversity. But following an energy-less five-point outing — during which the Jazz point guard attempted just four shots and was clearly outplayed by Chris Paul — Harris acknowledged Utah’s suddenly out of synch.
“We’ve got to find that rhythm and it’s tough to do,” he said. “You can tell when guys are in rhythm, when guys are confident and shooting the ball. … It’s been tough. Obviously we’ll keep working at it and we’ll find it.”
During a contest that was often a blowout and rarely a fight, Utah allowed the Clippers to hit 12 of their initial 16 shots, including 5 of 6 from behind the 3-point line. Paul’s 26 points topped the Clippers, while Blake Griffin added 24 for Los Angeles, which went 5-0 during its homestand. Paul and Griffin combined to shoot 20 of 30 from the floor.
“It was a good, solid win for us,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I thought we got off to a very good start and shot the ball much better [Saturday], especially from deep. That opened up some things for us and we took control of the game.”
Utah pulled off an 8-2 run to close the first half. And for all of the Jazz’s struggles during the initial two quarters, Utah trailed only 57-45 at the break.
The blitz hit 16-2 before Los Angeles reacted. In just 4:21, the Jazz turned a rout into a fight, pulling within 57-53 after Paul Millsap sank a 16-footer.
But just as quickly as Utah was back in it, the Jazz were again falling backward.
A Griffin-led 11-2 run made it 75-61 Los Angeles, and the Clippers took a 79-66 lead into the fourth quarter.
Griffin converted a three-point play as soon as the final period began, and Utah was again staring at a 16-point deficit, despite Los Angeles briefly losing Paul to a bruised left elbow.
The Jazz made a final run, cutting a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to 90-82. But a missed layup and a turnover resulted in more Clippers momentum. And when Paul danced around Earl Watson on a fast-break layup, it was 94-82 Los Angeles.
Utah was finally out of rope.
“There is no excuse for us losing this game,” Millsap said.
Storylines Jazz defenseless
R In short • The Jazz are ripped apart by the Clippers, falling 105-96 Saturday.
Key stat • L.A. shoots 68.2 percent from the field during the first quarter and hits 9 of 13 3-pointers in the first half.