Gordon Hayward leads Utah Jazz to win, 3-2 series lead over Los Angeles Clippers

By Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange  |  April 26, 2017 at 12:21 PM
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LOS ANGELES -- Gordon Hayward made it clear he doesn't want to return to Staples Center this weekend.

"We want to close it out in Salt Lake City," Hayward said. "We definitely don't want to come here for Game 7."

Hayward scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and the Utah Jazz held off the Los Angeles Clippers 96-92 to take a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference playoffs series Tuesday night at Staples Center.

The Jazz would clinch the series with a win in Game 6 on Friday in Salt Lake City.

"You can't get too high on the highs," said Hayward, who played 41 minutes Tuesday after being forced out of Game 4 with food poisoning. "We won Game 1. Can't get too low on the lows, lost the next two. For us, we have to treat (Game 6) like a must-win."

Utah's Rodney Hood scored 16 points, and Joe Johnson delivered 10 of his 14 points in the second half. Rudy Gobert added 11 points, 11 rebounds and five steals for the Jazz.

Chris Paul scored 28 points and handed out nine assists for the Clippers, who played their second game without forward Blake Griffin, sidelined for the rest of the postseason with a plantar plate injury to his right big toe. J.J. Redick contributed 26 points, and DeAndre Jordan collected 14 points and 12 boards.

"We made our runs, we made spurts, but we didn't make stops when we needed to," said Paul, who scored 19 points in the second half. "It's no secret our backs are against the wall down 3-2."

Two free throws by Paul with 36 seconds remaining pulled the Clippers within 90-87, but Johnson, who has hurt the Clippers throughout the series with clutch shooting, buried a jumper 17 seconds later for a 92-87 Utah lead.

Two more foul shots by Paul with 14.6 seconds remaining closed the gap to three again, but George Hill, who finished with 12 points and seven assists, converted a pair of free throws with 10.8 seconds left to make it 94-89.

Paul's 3-pointer cut the deficit to two with 5.1 seconds left.

Hill clinched the victory with two free throws with four seconds remaining.

"It's a tough loss, but it's not like I'm going to bury my head or anything like that," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We lost the game. You know, defensively overall I thought we played pretty well. Offensively, I didn't think we played well at all. There were a lot of things that I did like about the game, and there were a lot of things I didn't. I think they're all fixable."

Said Gobert: "We just tried to come out with toughness and attitude. We really wanted to win this game, and we did."

Both clubs struggled offensively in the third quarter, with the Jazz outscoring the Clippers 18-15 for a 64-58 advantage heading into the final quarter. The Jazz managed to hit only 36.4 percent of their shots compared to 31.3 percent for the Clippers. During one stretch during the period, neither club managed a field goal for almost four minutes.

For the game, Utah made 43.2 percent of its shots to 42 percent for Los Angeles.

In addition, the Jazz controlled the tempo.

"I think we didn't shoot the ball as well as -- we (were) 29 for 69," said Paul, who was 10 of 19 from the floor and 4 of 6 from 3-point range. "I looked up at the clock at one point and it was 50 something to 50 something in the third quarter, know what I mean? I remember when I looked up I was like 'Man, we must be playing at their pace,' but hopefully we could get the win, but we didn't."

Clippers backup guard Austin Rivers returned after missing 10 games due to a strained left hamstring. He scored two points in 18 minutes.

Utah's bench outscored Los Angeles' reserves 36-16.

NOTES: The Jazz had been effective defending Clippers SG J.J. Redick, who scored in double figures (12 points) in Game 1 but had failed to do so again until Game 5. "I think the length of them has bothered him," Rivers said. "They do a great job of taking his right hand away. Everyone knows he wants to come off to his right to shoot. I think (Joe) Ingles and (Rodney) Hood have been fantastic in their scouting report prep. They've been terrific." Jazz coach Quin Snyder wouldn't take credit for Utah's success against Redick, calling it a "little bit of luck." ... Game 7 (if necessary) would be played Sunday in Los Angeles.

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