August 3, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Clippers rally but can’t stop late surge by Utah Jazz in loss

Guarded by a 7-foot, two-time defensive player of the year, Clippers guard Paul George hesitated with his dribble ever so slightly Friday night behind the three-point arc inside Salt Lake City’s Vivint Arena. Gauging the distance between himself and the outstretched arm of center Rudy Gobert, George fired a three-pointer that cut what had been a 19-point Jazz lead to just one. Just over three minutes remained in Friday’s fourth quarter.

The basket capped a stunning rally — the second of the night that the Clippers could not sustain when it mattered most.

Just as it had scored the final eight points of the first half to blunt a Clippers rally, Utah saved its best execution for the last minutes of the second half, as well, scoring seven consecutive points after George’s three-pointer to send the Clippers to a 106-100 defeat.

The Clippers (4-2) couldn’t overcome their 38% shooting, including off nights from Kawhi Leonard, who made eight of his 19 shots for 20 points, and Paul George, who finished with 25 points on 6-of-22 shooting.

Utah, meanwhile, needed a 33-point game from Mike Conley, including seven three-pointers, to survive while playing its second game in as many nights.

The Clippers’ stars compensated in other ways, with Leonard joining Danny Manning as the only players in team history to record at least 20 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists and three blocks. And George was a force at times defensively, responsible for all six of the Clippers’ steals, to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

Yet trouble arrived quickly. After a hook shot by Ivica Zubac created a two-point Clippers lead with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter, Utah closed the quarter on an 18-4 run to lead by 12. At one end, Gobert gobbled up the misses from the Clippers’ 25% shooting to feed an offense fueled by Conley’s 12 points in his first eight minutes.

Utah Jazz center Derrick Favors reaches for the ball between Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, left, and forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half Friday.

(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

When Conley made his third three-pointer less than a minute into the second quarter, after the Clippers’ defense allowed Joe Ingles to drive into the paint and create an easy passing lane to the corner, coach Tyronn Lue called timeout.

The adjustments worked. Mired in a poor-shooting start, George grabbed five steals, a career-high for any half, and the defense tightened as the Clippers outscored Utah 25-6 over their next nine minutes to trim an 18-point deficit to just one.

But cutting Utah’s lead turned out to be easier than creating the Clippers’ own.

Highlights from the Clippers’ 106-100 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday.

The Jazz scored the final eight points of the first half and the first nine of the second to stake a second 18-point lead with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. Their lead was 20 midway through the third after Conley’s sixth three-pointer — just one fewer than the entire Clippers roster had made to that point. For the rest of the quarter, they traded baskets with the Jazz without seriously denting their advantage.

Over four minutes and 55 seconds of the fourth quarter, that all changed. With Utah playing its second game in as many nights, the Clippers executed like the team with fresher legs to cut the Jazz lead to five points with 5:34 remaining after a pair of free throws by Leonard.

The Clippers next face Phoenix on Sunday.