Griffin, Paul lead Clippers over Jazz 112-96
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — About 7,200 miles ago, the Los Angeles Clippers were stumbling and bumbling.
After going 6-1 on an extended road trip, the Clippers have found their groove.
“We made it a business trip,” Chris Paul said. “We got out of our own way. We played a little bit more free and really moved the ball. Most of all, our defense was pretty good.”
Blake Griffin scored 28 points and Paul added 17 points and 10 assists to beat the Utah Jazz 112-96 on Saturday night and post their fourth straight win.
Jamal Crawford scored 22 points and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 12 rebounds as the Clippers (11-5) finished the trip with an exclamation point.
“We executed our game plans on this trip, with the exception of Memphis (a 107-91 loss on Nov. 23). We got to our places on the floor. We made teams do what we wanted them to do,” Griffin said.
Gordon Hayward scored 30 points and Derrick Favors had 19 for the Jazz (5-12), who have lost a season-high five games in a row.
“I think the Clippers make everybody look a step slow right now. They put you in a lot of positions where a mistake costs you a basket or a layup,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.
J.J. Redick had 13 points as the Clippers marked 12 consecutive victories over the Jazz with 56 percent shooting.
The Clippers now boast an NBA-best 5-0 record in the second half of back-to-back games.
“We got tired, but we just push through,” Paul said.
The Jazz closed within 98-86 in the fourth quarter on a couple hustle plays by Trevor Booker, including an emphatic follow dunk. But the Clippers countered with 3-pointers by Redick and Crawford — both on assists from Griffin.
“Especially late in games, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what J.J. and Jamal do - they knock shots down. So that was huge,” Griffin said.
Griffin’s unselfishness didn’t go unnoticed.
“What makes Blake so dangerous is his ability to pass the ball. When they started making that run, they tried to trap me and I just got it to Blake and it’s like he’s a point guard, making the right passes,” Paul said.
Griffin scored 13 points in the first quarter as the Clippers tried to get this one over quickly and get some rest on their road trip finale.
“It was really important to jump on them because we know the Jazz aren’t going to quit at home,” Griffin said.
But the Jazz rallied behind Hayward’s 20 second-quarter points, the most in a quarter for a Jazz player this season.
Hayward’s running hook trimmed the lead to 51-45, but the Clippers soon extended the advantage to 62-50 at halftime thanks to Crawford’s last-second jumper and free throw.
Clippers: Blake Griffin is third in the NBA with 29 points per game in the second half of back-to-backs. . Griffin got a technical for arguing an out-of-bounds call in the second quarter. ... The Clippers never trailed.
Jazz: Alec Burks hurt his shoulder in first quarter while contesting a fast-break drive by Matt Barnes, and immediately went to the training room but returned and scored 12 points. ... Rodney Hood played for first time after missing 10 games with foot inflammation and scored two points but missed all six of his field goal attempts. . Booker had 15 points and a season-high nine rebounds.
“Before we even had the jump ball, we talked about it and said, ‘Make sure we set the tone and make sure we set the pace,’ because this is a team that can play really well here at home,” Paul said of the Clippers jumping out to a 35-15 lead.
The seven-game trip is the second-longest of the season for any team in terms of distance. “It shows a lot of character because it’s hard to win on the road, it really is. People outside our locker room were panicking a little bit about us before we left. It shows our growth, for sure,” Crawford said. “We’re carving out our identity.”
HAYWARD WITHOUT HELP
Hayward had never scored 20 points in a quarter before. His previous best was when he scored Utah’s final 17 points in the fourth quarter of a win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 7, 2014. Problem was it came after the Jazz were so far down. “We got ourselves in a hole and we had to fight back. Good thing happen when you play hard,” Hayward said.
Clippers: Host Minnesota on Monday.
Jazz: Host Denver on Monday.