SALT LAKE CITY -- Defense. Defense. Defense.
Once the Clippers decided to play defense, they overwhelmed the Utah Jazz in pulling out a 96-87 victory Friday night at Energy Solutions Arena to extend Los Angeles' winning streak to 10 games.
The Clippers were indifferent about playing defense in the first half, allowing the Jazz to score 51 points, shoot 50% from the field, 55.6% (five for nine) from three-point range and outrebound them, 24-14.
But the Clippers clamped down on the Jazz in the second half, holding Utah to just 36 points and 40.5% shooting. The Clippers had 12 steals overall.
"We played defense in the second half," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "I think they had 36 points in the second half. They had 33 [points] in the first quarter. So, it was just our defensive energy."
The Clippers picked up their intensity on defense even though Chris Paul suffered a sprained left ankle in the third quarter.
At the end of the third, after Paul had become aggressive on offense by scoring nine of his 18 points, he went to the Clippers' locker room to get his ankle retaped. Paul, who also had seven assists and six rebounds, returned to play 6 minutes 24 seconds in the fourth.
"It was the freakiest thing ever," Paul said. "I laid [the ball] up and nobody was around me. When I landed, my left foot was on the [basket] stanchion."
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 20 points, and he had five rebounds and five assists.
But Griffin had his back wrapped when he sat on the bench resting, and he had it wrapped up in ice after playing 36:22.
"It's all right," Griffin said. "I'll get treatment on it tomorrow. I should be good."
The Clippers, who got a big lift from Willie Green (12 points), entered the game knowing they had defeated the Jazz eight consecutive times.
The Clippers also knew the Jazz were tied with the Lakers for the worst record in the Western Conference. Utah remains tied with the Lakers at 22-44.
Still, the Clippers didn't take their first lead of the game until there was 1:30 left in the third quarter on a Paul drive.
Paul's play was a big part of the Clippers' surging from 10 points down in the third to opening five-point lead at the end of the quarter in a 17-2 run to finish out the third.
The Clippers got hot in the third quarter. They made 77.8% (14 of 18) of their shots.
Paul was four for five from the field in the third, and he had four assists.
But it all started with the Clippers' defense limiting the Jazz to two points over the last 4:39 of the third quarter.
"We kept saying, 'Let's play our defense,'" Paul said. "Early in the game, seemed like they were just in a rocking chair, swinging it [the ball]. We were giving them everything they wanted. Then we just tried to make things a little more difficult."
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