Slow start dooms Utah Jazz vs. L.A. Clippers
Los Angeles • Stop us if you've heard this one before.
The Utah Jazz dug themselves a big hole in the first quarter, fought back, then were outworked in the third Saturday in an eventual 107-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
The Jazz, who have struggled with slow starts this season, may have set a new standard against the Clippers. In the first quarter they were outscored 17-6 and Paul Millsap scored 15 of the team's first 16 points. In the third, it was worse. The Clippers outscored the Jazz 19-2 to start the second half.
And, in honor of Sunday's Oscars, consider this image from Saturday the game's best picture: A high-flying Alec Burks going up for a dunk, and being fouled hard by Blake Griffin. Griffin dismissed Burks with his off hand and stood straddled the Jazz guard and looked down at him sympathetically as Burks writhed on the ground.
The Jazz, playing just their second game in 10 days, trailed by as many as 21 points, and did not lead after being up 49-46 late in the first half after trailing by as many as 11. The Jazz lead the NBA with 13 comeback wins after trailing by at least 10 points, but have also consistently given back big leads after recovering from them.
So Saturday followed a certain script.
Despite a forgettable performance, the Jazz (31-25) are still in good position to reach the playoffs. But as they start to consider potential first-round opponents, the Clippers don't look too appealing. And, with games like this one, the sixth seed looks increasingly out of reach. The Clippers are one of only two Western Conference teams the Jazz have not beaten - Memphis is the other - and the Jazz were swept in the season series against the Clippers for the first time since 1978-79.
Chris Paul, fresh off an MVP performance in last week's All-Star game, recorded 11 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds as he continued his season-long tormenting of the Jazz.
Caron Butler led the Clippers with 21 points, while Griffin and a resurgent Lamar Odom both scored 18.
Gordon Hayward scored 23 points off the bench to lead the Jazz - their best producer, if you will. The Jazz guard continued his strong play in his second game back after missing 10 with a sprained right shoulder.
Hayward scored 17 points in Tuesday's win over the Golden State Warriors.
On Saturday he was helped out by 19 points from Millsap, 16 from Al Jefferson and 15 from Enes Kanter.
However, the more telling tale is in who didn't score rather than who did. Three Jazz starters, Marvin Wiliams, Randy Foye and Jamaal Tinsley were all held scoreless and the Jazz combined to shoot 1-of-15 on 3-pointers. They entered the game ranked 23rd in the NBA in 3-pointers made per game.
The Jazz's starting backcourt was outscored 19-0 by the tandem of Paul and Billups.
Millsap, who was rumored to be on the trading block before Thursday's league-wide trade deadline, scored 17 points in a contentious first half. But he was the only Jazz player to score until the 2:55 mark of the first quarter.
The Clippers outshot the Jazz 51 percent to 41 percent, and outrebounded them 46-39.
• Gordon Hayward scores 23 points to lead the Jazz
• Chris Paul comes close to a triple-double, finishing with 11 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds
• The Jazz overcome an 11-point first-half deficit to lead by 3 but fall behind again in the third quarter.