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NBA: Jazz fall short again; Clippers win 16th straight

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Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, left, steals the ball from Utah Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley, right, while Clippers point guard Chris Paul, rear, looks on in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Dec 28 2012 11:10PM
Updated Apr 8, 2013 11:34PM

In a game in which a combined 81 free throws were attempted, the Jazz left the floor believing they had earned three more.

A handful of fans threw toy basketballs and paper airplanes to the floor in disgust. Al Jefferson strutted off the floor immediately, shaking his head. The referees exited nearly as abruptly. Three Jazz executives — Kevin O’Connor, Randy Rigby, Greg Miller — were on the floor, screaming and pointing.

The Clippers may be the hottest team in the NBA, but nobody was hotter than those three.

Randy Foye’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was one of few he didn’t make on Saturday, and the collision with Matt Barnes as he was fired didn’t help. But after calling four fouls in the final minute of the Los Angeles Clippers’ 116-114 win, this time the referees practiced restraint.

So, too, did the Jazz when it came time to address the dominant issue.

"He just, he played good D, man," Foye said. "That’s all I got to say on that."

Foye pump-faked and stepped into Barnes before shooting, and it appeared it may have been the Jazz guard who initiated contact, which could validate the referees’ decision not to blow a whistle.

The non-call was just the final twist in a wild night that saw the Jazz, who have lost six of their last eight games, build and blow a 19-point lead.

Foye, who joined the Jazz as a free agent after spending two seasons with the Clippers, led the Jazz with a season-high 28 points and made 5 of 9 3-pointers. After Chris Paul missed his only free throw of the night (13 of 14) with 17.8 seconds left, the Jazz answered with a pair of makes by Al Jefferson.

However, Jefferson undid that good by fouling Paul 25 feet from the basket when he jumped out to trap.

"We were trying to trap and the referee called a foul," Jefferson said. "… Don’t matter what I think, he called it."

It gave Paul two more free throws, of which he missed neither.

"They get fouls on the perimeter," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We can’t even get fouls going to the basket. It’s the way it is."

The Jazz had previously been aggravated by the officiating with 41.9 seconds left, when Paul Millsap appeared to be fouled on a cut to the basket that could have put the Jazz up 112-111.

In one of the best free throw shooting games imaginable, the Jazz were 37 of 40 from the foul line, while the Clippers were 33 of 41.

It was Utah’s second loss to the Clippers amid L.A.’s 16-game winning streak, which has yielded a league best 24-6 record. Friday’s loss mirrored Dec. 3’s, when the Jazz blew a 14-point lead (their biggest in a loss before Friday) and Foye had a shot at the buzzer that could have won the game.

"We made some mistakes, but we fought our way through it and had a chance to win the ballgame at the end," Corbin said.

The Jazz trailed 29-22 at the end of the first quarter, but behind big performances from Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks outscored the Clippers 36-19 in the second.

Hayward scored 11 of his 17 points in the second quarter.

However, the Clippers made their run in the third quarter largely with the Jazz starters on the floor.

"I thought the guys played hard," Corbin said. "I thought we were competing against them, they were competing against us. I thought we played with the same energy they had."

Before Friday, the Clippers had won seven straight games by double digits. But that was little consolation, even as the Jazz will travel Saturday to Los Angeles for Sunday’s rematch at Staples Center.

"We gave up a game that we should have won here," Jamaal Tinsley said.

boram@stlrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

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