Just when it seemed as if the Clippers might start their Grammy Awards trip on an off-key note, they surged ahead in the final minutes for a 94-89 victory over the Utah Jazz, giving them a sixth consecutive triumph. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. The Clippers keep finding ways to win. A double-digit, fourth-quarter comeback. A scoring outburst from Jamal Crawford. Big blocks from DeAndre Jordan. It almost seems as if the Clippers are inventing ways to win on a nightly basis and they found another one against the Jazz by tightening their defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Jazz to 17 points. The Clippers trapped Gordon Hayward, who missed all four of his fourth-quarter shots and kept the Jazz from making any of their nine three-pointers in the quarter.
2. J.J. Redick’s being sidelined had a trickle-down effect. The shooting guard’s absence because of back spasms forced Crawford into the starting lineup and left the bench devoid of a go-to scorer. Rivers was the only reserve to score and the starters had to play a lot of minutes to compensate for the lack of depth. Coach Doc Rivers said he hoped Redick could return Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans but described Redick’s symptoms as being similar to whiplash, which sounded like something that could keep him out longer than one game.
3. Austin Rivers played his best game as a Clipper. The backup point guard listened when teammate Chris Paul told him to drive to the basket and showed some touch from long range, making two of four three-pointers. Rivers finished with 12 points on five-for-eight shooting and seemed to be getting more comfortable playing among his new teammates. “I told [the other Clippers players] I haven’t been used to playing this free since I was at Duke or in high school,” Rivers said, “and people know what I did there.”
4. Anyone who doesn’t think Paul is an All-Star is not smart. On a night when his teammates seemed to zone in and out of the game like fifth-graders blankly staring at the chalkboard shortly before recess, Paul was aggressive from start to finish, showing he is a gamer even when no one else on his team seems to be playing the same game. He had another all-around excellent performance with 21 points, six assists and five rebounds, including a 17-foot jumper that gave the Clippers a late five-point lead. The fact that Paul has to wait to see whether he will be selected as an All-Star reserve while the injured and inefficient Kobe Bryant was selected as a starter by fans is a sad commentary on those who watch the game.
5. Former Clippers training camp invitee Joe Ingles is showing he could stick in the NBA. The small forward has essentially gone from being No. 16 on the Clippers’ depth chart—i.e. out of luck—to starting for Utah. And it wasn’t just because Jazz Coach Quin Snyder felt sorry for him. Ingles continues to play well, as evidenced by his 10-point, seven-assist, five-rebound performance against the Clippers. The big knock on Ingles is a lack of athleticism, but he is a crafty veteran whose diverse skill set can more than compensate for that deficiency. “The biggest thing he is doing is defending,” Snyder said. “That’s where he has made the biggest impact on our team.”