Los Angeles Clippers rally to take 2-1 series lead over Utah Jazz

By John Coon, The Sports Xchange  |  April 22, 2017 at 11:18 AM
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Making clutch baskets turned into Chris Paul's trademark when the Los Angeles Clippers needed those plays to spark a second-half rally.

Paul fueled a decisive fourth-quarter run by scoring on four straight possessions and finished with a season-high 34 points to lift the Clippers to a 111-106 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night in Game 3 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

The veteran point guard put Los Angeles on his shoulders after halftime at a critical juncture. Blake Griffin headed to the locker room with 3:18 left in the second quarter after suffering a bruised right big toe. Griffin did not return in the second half.

In his absence, Paul scored 24 points in the third and fourth quarter to rally the Clippers from a double-digit deficit.

"He's just a tough, tough guy," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He's stubborn in a very, very positive way. All the great ones have that in them. They are stubborn enough like they aren't going to lose. That's how he felt."

DeAndre Jordan had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Luc Mbah a Moute added 15 points for the Clippers. Blake Griffin had 11 points and six rebounds before injuring his toe.

Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead in the series and notched its first-ever playoff win in the state of Utah after going 0-5 in previous trips.

Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 40 points to lead the Jazz. George Hill added 26 points and Joe Johnson chipped in 15 off the bench for Utah.

The Jazz connected on a franchise playoff-record 14 field goals but could not get enough stops down the stretch.

The Clippers erased a double-digit deficit by the end of the third quarter. They finally went ahead for the first time since the first quarter with 4:01 left in the game. Paul made four straight baskets to cap a 15-0 run and put Los Angeles up 103-96 with 2:09 left.

"I was just trying to pick my spots," Paul said. "That's a good team over there. They stick to their principles. Me and DJ on the ball screen just tried to keep getting creative and tried to figure out where they were going to play."

Joe Johnson made back-to-back baskets to cut the deficit to three points and Hill trimmed it to 106-105 after draining a 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds left. But Paul and JJ Redick made free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.

Utah had a final chance at a tying basket with 3.3 seconds left, but Hayward turned the ball over on the inbounds pass.

"You always hear it doesn't come down to one play," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We could have executed that play a little better. I felt like, for the most part, our offensive execution was good. But we didn't find the open guy on that."

Hayward powered Utah's offense almost by himself during the first quarter. He totaled 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field -- highlighted by three 3-pointers -- while playing all 12 minutes.

Hayward's scoring in the quarter equaled the team output for Los Angeles during that same stretch. It was the most points in a quarter of a playoff game since Karl Malone scored 20 in the fourth against Portland on May 9, 1991.

"The energy was great, it was electric out there," Hayward said. "It was the end of the game that we couldn't get stops. That was the biggest problem for us. I have talked about it before. We couldn't get stops, so it allowed them to set their defense on us and they made it really difficult for us."

NOTES: Jazz C Rudy Gobert (knee) and G Alec Burks (knee) did not play in Friday's game. G Austin Rivers (hamstring) and C Diamond Stone (knee) were inactive for the Clippers. ... F Luc Mbah a Moute set a playoff career high with 15 points. Mbah a Moute scored in double figures for the fourth time in six games after reaching 10-plus points just 12 other times previously this season. ... F Gordon Hayward's 21 first quarter points exceeded his total scoring for the Jazz in Game 1 (19) and Game 2 (20) against the Clippers. ... Los Angeles finished with a 41-27 advantage on the glass against Utah. ... Jazz G George Hill eclipsed 1,000 career playoff points in the second quarter.

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