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Utah Jazz: Clips’ Rivers say Jazz may face difficult year

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Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, left, puts his hand on the head of Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors during the first half of their preseason NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

By Aaron Falk

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Oct 23 2013 08:16PM
Updated Feb 14, 2014 11:36PM

Los Angeles • Doc Rivers has a "man crush" on Gordon Hayward.

Asked about the Jazz’s fourth-year swingman before Wednesday night’s preseason game and the Clippers head coach had to interrupt.

"I have a man crush on that guy," Rivers said. "He’s really good."

But Rivers also foresees a tough year ahead for the promising Hayward. As he spoke to reporters before the game, Rivers reflected back on his time as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, when Grant Hill was out with an injury and Tracy McGrady became the team’s only real scoring threat.

"I just always felt bad for [McGrady]," he said. "When you’re the guy and you’re the only guy for a while — there’s other guys, but I’m talking superstar — that’s a hard job and Gordon will find that out this year."

Hayward was able to share the workload Wednesday night, as four of the Jazz’s starting five hit double-figures, led by power forward Derrick Favor’s 24 points and 16 rebounds. But the Jazz still left Staples Center with a win, falling to the Clippers 103-99. It was Utah’s sixth straight preseason loss.

"After last night, a tough loss against the Lakers, I thought we responded well," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "We saw what we wanted to see: the fight in this group."

Even in defeat, it was the best outing of the preseason for the 6-foot-10 Favors, who showed off a variety of low-post moves, spinning and hitting soft left-handed shots and later drawing contact and using his 260-plus pounds to finish at the rim.

The Clippers’ high-flying frontcourt opened the game up with a flurry of dunks.

But the insertion of rookie center Rudy Gobert into the lineup gave Utah some extra help in grounding the two. Gobert blocked five shots and grabbed 12 rebounds in 20 minutes on the floor.

But the 7-foot-2 Frenchman was not completely safe in Lob City. In the third quarter, point guard Chris Paul hit the cutting Blake Griffin with a bounce pass and the former Slam Dunk champ gave Gobert a first-hand look at his skills.

"I thought about blocking him," Gobert said. "But when I saw him in the air, it’s too late. I said, ‘It’s too late.’"

After being blown out by the Clippers, 106-74, earlier this month in Salt Lake City, the Jazz put on a much better showing Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

"There’s a lot of positives," Corbin said. "We grew a lot tonight. We got better tonight."

Hayward finished the night with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in the loss. The 6-6 swingman showed off his outside shooting and used his size at the 2-guard spot to his advantage, in one sequence blocking J.J. Redick and then posting up the Clippers guard for a layup.

For the Clippers, Paul enjoyed a solid night, and took advantage of extended minutes against Utah’s Scott Machado, a free agent trying to win a roster spot with the Jazz. Paul scored 14 and added 10 assists. He lobbed up passes to Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the paint and kicked out to Redick — who finished 3 of 7 from 3-point range — when the defense cheated toward the hoop.

Griffin tallied 15 points and six rebounds for L.A.

With the win, the Clippers improve to 5-2 in the preseason. The Jazz fall to 1-6.

The Jazz will remain in Southern California, finishing out the preseason schedule Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers’ bench erupted for 74 points in a 108-94 win over Utah on Tuesday.

afalk@sltirb.com" target="_blank">class="TEXT_w_Indent">afalk@sltirb.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

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