Every player on the Jazz bench jumped with Enes Kanter as he took off baseline for a huge first-quarter dunk. The crowd did the same as Gordon Hayward skied for a chase-down block and once more when Derrick Favors slammed over a defender in the paint.
For 30 minutes of basketball Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena, the Jazz — not the L.A. Clippers — provided the highlights.
But the Clippers proved why they’re the real deal.
Over the final 4:15 of the third quarter, L.A., considered by many to be serious contenders for a championship, erased a 10-point Jazz lead to take a five-point lead of its own. It was a lead the Clippers would never relinquish in a 96-87 win over the Jazz.
"It’s a veteran team and we’re learning," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "We have to get better in those situations. We have to be able to match the pressure they’re putting on us."
Chris Paul scored nine of his 18 points in that third quarter. The all-star point guard also had seven assists and six rebounds, despite rolling his ankle. Meanwhile, Blake Griffin, the all-star forward, scored six of his game-high 20 points in the third.
"They jumped us," Corbin said.
Utah outrebounded the Clippers and shot 50 percent from 3. But the Jazz aided the L.A. cause with 20 turnovers, good for 31 Clippers’ points.
With starting forward Marvin Williams sidelined by a lower back injury, Corbin paired Kanter and Favors in the frontcourt. It’s a combination Corbin has steered clear of for much of the year. Coming into Friday, the two big men had played together in 39 games for a total of 502 minutes and 287 of those came in November, before Corbin moved Kanter out of the starting lineup.
Favors scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Kanter, meanwhile, had 11 points and recorded a season-high 15 boards.
"I love to play with him on the court," Kanter said. "I’m so comfortable. It’s been three years now. I know what he’s yogin to do and he knows what I’m going to do. So I would like to see more minutes me and him on the court together."
With the Clippers lead at five midway through the fourth, Gordon Hayward drove to the basket but couldn’t get the bucket or the whistle, losing the ball out of bounds.
On the ensuing possession for L.A., Paul hit a running 8-footer to make it a three-possession game.
Hayward finished with seven points, three rebounds and 10 assists on the night.
It was the Jazz’s third straight defeat at home this week with a three-game road trip against a trio of Western Conference playoff teams next on the schedule. But despite the latest losing streak, the Jazz have strung together better performances than almost any the team mustered last week on the road.
"It was like those losses [out East], we were just quitting," Favors said. "We were just giving up. These recent losses, I mean, it’s not cool, it’s not fun too lose. But at the same time, we’re out there playing hard, we’re out there fighting. The other team just hit big shots and make big plays. You live with that."
The loss dropped the Jazz to 22-44 on the year, putting a team on the verge of statistical elimination from the playoffs with a month left in the season.
"It’s been pretty tough," rookie point guard Trey Burke said of a campaign that will end with another high lottery pick. "But we all understand it’s a process."
But Burke, who had 18 points, said he’s seeing progress in that process.
"I definitely think so, only because you can tell what type of team we can be. That first half, it shows we can play with anybody in this league," he said. "We just have to get to that level where it’s like that for 48 minutes."Next Page >
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