Blake Griffin powers Los Angeles Clippers past Utah Jazz to tie series

By Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange  |  April 19, 2017 at 12:18 PM
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LOS ANGELES -- Attacking the rim and scoring inside made all the difference for the Los Angeles Clippers in their Game 2 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.

Blake Griffin scored 24 points, and the Clippers earned a 99-91 win over the Jazz at Staples Center to even the Western Conference first-round playoff series at one game apiece.

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Friday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.

Chris Paul had 21 points, 10 assists and three steals for the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan collected 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds before fouling out with 52 seconds left.

Unlike their Game 1 loss, when they managed 40 points in the paint, the Clippers put up 60 inside points to 38 for the Jazz in Game 2.

"I thought we did a good job of getting the ball inside," said Griffin, who made 11 of 21 shots from the floor. "It was a point of emphasis. But yeah, when we're hitting outside shots and putting pressure on teams inside, it is another level, but those games aren't always going to happen.

"I thought tonight what made the difference is defensively we just made it tough for them and made them take the shots we wanted them to take."

Gordon Hayward scored 20 points, and Derrick Favors and Joe Johnson added 13 apiece for the Jazz. George Hill chipped in 12 points and seven boards.

"I think we've got to be better executing our game plan," Hayward said. "Especially there in the first quarter, it seemed like (Jordan) got a lot of easy stuff right there at the rim, easy dunks, lobs, and some of that's what they do. They're good at it. They're a good team, but we for sure have to be better. I think we will be."

Jazz coach Quin Snyder was pleased with his team's effort in the ongoing absence of Rudy Gobert (hyperextended left knee/bone contusion). The center was hurt less than 20 seconds into Utah's Game 1 win.

"They raised their level tonight," Snyder said of the Clippers. "We didn't necessarily back down or not play, but I thought they played with an intensity and a level from the very beginning of the game that was ... it was impressive. And that's who they are and that's what we expected, and we've got to raise our level now."

The Clippers never trailed. However, despite building double-digit leads on several occasions, they couldn't shake the Jazz until late in the contest. The Jazz closed to within six on five occasions in the fourth quarter before the Clippers sealed the win.

"They're a team that they keep fighting," Griffin said. "They keep executing. I've said it over and over, but they're really well-coached. They don't panic."

Hayward hit two foul shots to close the gap to 94-88 with 2:10 remaining, but Griffin converted a 3-pointer with 1:35 left for a nine-point advantage. A layup by Joe Ingles sliced the deficit to 97-91 with 21 seconds remaining. Two free throws by Los Angeles' Jamal Crawford, who finished with 10 points, with 13.4 seconds remaining capped the scoring.

The Clippers led by as many as 13 in the first half before seizing a 51-42 lead at the break. The Clippers outshot the Jazz 56.1 percent to 40.5 percent in the first half.

For the game, the Clippers shot 52.4 percent to 45.7 percent for the Jazz.

Paul was the most aggressive Clipper for much of the game, scoring 14 points in the second half after being plagued by foul trouble in the first.

"Man, I was trying to just stay on the court, to tell the truth," said Paul, who scored his 1,000 career 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. "Just trying to be aggressive, take what's there. I think we moved the ball great, but all in all, I think our pace was pretty good all night. Whether they scored, missed or whatnot, we just tried to keep the tempo and the pace up."

NOTES: Jazz coach Quin Snyder said he has no idea when C Rudy Gobert will return. "Under the circumstances, I think he's in a good place (mentally) and his focus is on trying to get back as quickly as he can," Snyder said. "From what you kind of felt initially, we feel fortunate that there was nothing more serious because it certainly looked like that when it happened. As far as exactly where he is in the process, I think it's hard to say." ... Clippers G Austin Rivers (hamstring) went through shooting drills before the game but did not play.

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