Colorful lasers sliced through the darkened air inside Staples Center when DeAndre Jordan commenced his usual pregame routine of grabbing the net underneath one basket and completing a few pullups on the rim.
Only this time, the Clippers center clutched the metal with such force that it shook for several seconds after he finally let go. Everything Jordan did Tuesday night seemed to have a little extra oomph.
He challenged Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles to take him one on one as Ingles dribbled on the perimeter, yelling, “Come on!” He leaped to block a Gordon Hayward free throw after officials had blown the attempt dead.
He emphatically applauded while standing on the sideline at midcourt while waiting to check back into the game.
Jordan’s activity level during the Clippers’ 99-91 victory over the Jazz in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series was several notches higher than it had been three days earlier in his team’s opening defeat.
He had a double-double by halftime and finished with 18 points on nine-for-11 shooting to go with 15 rebounds and one block, his all-around effort sparking the Clippers in a game they had to win before going on the road for the next two games.
“We went downhill a lot more tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought that also allowed D.J. to get behind the defense a lot because of the penetration and the ball movement. We did a better job of dictating the pace.”
It was as if Jordan finally realized the Jazz were without center Rudy Gobert and his averages of 14.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and an NBA-leading 2.6 blocks per game. Gobert remains out indefinitely because of a hyperxtended left knee and a bone bruise suffered on the first possession of the series opener.
“I’m not worried about anybody else,” Jordan said. “I hope he comes back this series. My job doesn’t change whether he plays or he’s out.”
The Jazz started the game with the far less imposing Derrick Favors on Jordan and he was no match in the early going. Jordan had four dunks in the first quarter alone, including a reverse dunk off an alley-oop pass from teammate Chris Paul. Jordan played the entire first quarter and made all five of his shots on the way to 10 points and five rebounds.
“I think we just made a point to try to get easy baskets,” said Jordan, who helped the Clippers amass a 60-38 advantage in points in the paint. “We got a lot of stops early and were able to get out in transition and get some easy dunks.”
Jordan also gave the Clippers the interior defensive presence they were missing during the series opener. He finished with 15 rebounds and 10 points but played as tight as the cornrows on his head, failing by a matter of inches to come up with a game-saving block on a floater by Joe Johnson at the buzzer.
The ending was far more satisfying Tuesday. Jordan walked off the court to a standing ovation after fouling out with 52 seconds left, the outcome and his role in it secure.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch