Slow start dooms Utah Jazz vs. L.A. Clippers
By Bill Oram
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 23 2013 11:21PM
Los Angeles • Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
The Utah Jazz dug themselves a big hole in the first quarter, fought back, then were outworked in the third quarter Saturday in a 107-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
The Jazz, who have struggled with slow starts this season, may have set a new standard against the Clippers. In the first quarter they were outscored 17-6 and Paul Millsap scored 15 of the team’s first 16 points. In the third, it was worse. The Clippers outscored the Jazz 19-2 to start the second half.
"We can’t let this happen," said Gordon Hayward, who led the Jazz with 23 points. "We’ve got to come out with energy, especially in the second half. That’s when teams at home try to put you away."
As has become a tradition, the Jazz bench bailed out the reserves in the first half. Three starters — Randy Foye, Marvin Williams and Jamaal Tinsley — did not score in the game. Asked if he would consider changing his starting lineup, coach Tyrone Corbin said, "When you don’t play your best game, you ponder a lot of things."
But Corbin was quick not too hang the loss entirely on his first group.
"It’s one game," he said, "and the starting group just didn’t get it going."
In honor of Sunday’s Academy Awards, consider this image from Saturday the game’s best picture: A high-flying Alec Burks going up for a dunk, and being fouled hard by Blake Griffin. Griffin dismissed Burks with his off hand and stood straddled the Jazz guard, looking down sympathetically as Burks writhed on the ground.
The Jazz, playing just their second game in 10 days, trailed by as much as 21 points and did not lead after being up 49-46 late in the first half. The Jazz lead the NBA with 13 comeback wins after trailing by at least 10 points, but have also consistently given back big leads after recovering from them.
Saturday’s was not an original script.
"I feel like we’ve got to realize we’re playing for something," Earl Watson said. "We’re trying to move up, we’re not trying to stay stagnant. We’re not trying to be content with where we’re at. Sometimes we’ve got to just take it."
As the Jazz start to consider potential first-round opponents, the Clippers don’t look too appealing, despite assurances by Al Jefferson and Hayward that if they meet again, the result could be different.
The Clippers are one of only two Western Conference teams the Jazz have not beaten — Memphis is the other — and the Jazz were swept in the season series against the Clippers for the first time since 1978-79.
"I wasn’t even alive 34 years ago," Jefferson said. "So it really don’t matter back then. But we had a chance in every game we played them."
Chris Paul, fresh off an MVP performance in last week’s All-Star game, recorded 11 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as he continued his season-long tormenting of the Jazz.
Caron Butler led the Clippers with 21 points, while Griffin and a resurgent Lamar Odom both scored 18.
Hayward was one of the few bright spots for the Jazz — their best producer, if you will. The guard continued his strong play in his second game back after missing 10 with a sprained right shoulder. His 13 made free throws were a career high, as were 14 attempts.
However, like his teammates, Hayward struggled from outside, finishing 0 for 2 from 3-point range. As a team, the Jazz were 1 for 15.
"Missed a lot of shots," Jefferson said. "Not just 3-point shots."
Millsap finished with just 19 points, Jefferson added 16 and Enes Kanter scored 15.
Millsap, who was rumored to be on the trading block before Thursday’s trade deadline, scored 17 points in a contentious first half. But he was the only Jazz player to score until the 2:55 mark of the first quarter.
The Clippers outshot the Jazz 51 percent to 41 percent, and outrebounded them 46-39.
"A team like this," Hayward said, "they get dunk after dunk, they’ll put a lot of points on you pretty quickly and that’s what happened."