The Utah Jazz (4-1) lost a hotly contested game against the darling Los Angeles Clippers (1-3) on Friday night. And sadly, this game is probably going to be best known for all the wrong reasons. The Jazz had previously defeated the Los Angeles Clippers (then playing without Jamal Crawford or Matt Barnes) in Utah, and completing the sweep would be a little bit harder. These kids don't know when to say die, and as a result, weren't going to give up the ghost to the big market Clips until the very end.
Rookie forward Rodney Hood (guard? player?) picked up two early first quarter fouls and Ian Clark had to replace him in the line up as Alec Burks missed his third straight game. For those keeping score at home, J.J. Redick would only score 2 points in the first quarter. (Redick was the dude who got the first foul called on Hood) For the most part the Clippers controlled the pace of the game and Chris Paul did his whiny little thing with the ball on his way to 7 first quarter assists. While he was conducting things for his crew, Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward were keeping the Jazz in this. Or, more precisely, keeping the Jazz *ahead* of LA. After one the Clippers were losing on their own home floor.
A home loss at the hands of the Jazz never looks good, but I am certain we're going to see a lot of teams this year have to accept that these kids aren't going to go into road games with the same attitude the team had the last few years.
In the second quarter Clippers coach Doc Rivers unleashed Jamal Crawford on the Jazz. Jamal would end up scoring 10 of his game high 25 points. Spencer Hawes got into the act as well scoring from inside and out. These two players would be the ONLY Clippers bench players to score in the game. Alone they would outscore the Jazz bench 49-26. Yikes. After 24 minutes the Jazz were still leading by one, thanks to solid performances by Burke and Hayward. Derrick Favors was solid, but did not get the help he needed from Enes Kanter and it showed.
After halftime something memorable happened. And this is what people are going to remember -- Blake Griffin did his "fake tough-guy" act and got Trevor Booker in trouble after a love tap in transition. Big whoop. The Jazz were still winning 66-61 with 2:56 left in the quarter. There was a flagrant foul, a few technicals, and the players had to be separated. You could argue that all the whining by the Clips bought them enough capital with the refs to flip the momentum with this pussy-cat move. But the Jazz didn't give up or back down. In fact the Jazz were on the verge of running away with the game AFTER that medium foul (not a hard foul), until Jamal and Spencer returned to the court and scored nine unanswered points to end the quarter.
With one quarter remaining, and one point between the two clubs (one the darling, hyped up playoff team -- the other a lotto team punchline of national TV personalities), fans were in for a classic finish. Crawford and Hawes scored the first 12 points of the quarter for LAC, and they helped create some distance between the two teams. After a timeout with 5 minutes left the Jazz fought back off a pair of Gordon Hayward jumpers to help the Jazz retake the lead. From that point on there were seven ties or lead changes that led up to some crazy lucky/good outside shooting for the Clippers to close this one out.
I was not happy with the outcome of this game, but as a foundational learning experience, I think it's necessary. Instead of facing the Clippers and folding before halftime this Jazz team made it hard for LA to win on it's own home court -- PLAYING THEIR BEST PLAYERS BIG MINUTES. The Clippers were fully healthy (even Ekpe Udoh played), and went only 10 deep. They almost had 30 FTA (under my prediction for this game), but shot over 40% from outside, and nearly had 30 3PTA. They slowed it down and played their game and still only won by a very small margin.
The Jazz did a great job of fighting throughout the game, and making the most of their time with the ball. Sans slasher Alec Burks I was worried about the team's ability to create their own shot when the defense clamped in. In a way Alec can be a half court crutch because of his individual ability, but right now I do appreciate the team concept and the poise showed so far. This Jazz team is being trained not to panic. And the results speak for themselves.
Shout outs go to Trey (21, 6, 5, 1, and another game without any turn overs), and Gordon (22, 6, 4, 6 -- who almost had a 5x5 if you include his 5 turn overs). Derrick Favors had another double double with 19 and 10, with 2 blocks, 1 assist, and 1 steal to boot. Rodney Hood somehow fouled out in 11 minutes of play. Enes Kanter and Trevor Booker combined to shoot 3-14, and pulled down 6 rebounds. Yeesh. Jeremy Evans had another DNP-CD. Double yeesh!
Dante Exum went 2/3 from downtown again, had no turn overs, and had 2 assists and 2 steals in his 17 minutes of action. Kid is going to be good.
The Jazz play next TODAY against the Los Angeles Lakers, in LA. Woo.