On Tuesday night at Staples Center, the LA Clippers polished off a 99-91 wire-to-wire win over the Utah Jazz to even up their best-of-seven series at 1-1. Both Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan finished with double-doubles for the home team in the victory.
From the opening possession, Paul came out aggressive and quickly scored the first bucket of the game. The 31-year-old veteran point guard scored seven points, grabbed a couple steals and dished off four assists in the first eight minutes of the game.
"He was great," said head coach Doc Rivers. "He was good through adversity, which I thought was really good. He got in foul trouble early, and we weathered that storm as a team"
By targeting Jordan early and often, the Clippers brought back their "Lob City" brand of high-flying, dunking basketball early in the contest.
Jordan finished the first quarter with 10 points and five rebounds to expose the Jazz's lack of height with standout center Rudy Gobert sitting out with a sprained knee suffered during Game One.
"I hope he's great. I hope he comes back in this series," said Jordan of Gobert. "But we can't worry about one person and I don't think my job changes if he's playing or if he's out. I've just got to continue to do my job and play the game of basketball no matter who's out there."
Riding the fast start, the Clippers led 29-18 after one quarter on 65.0 percent shooting from the field.
The Jazz struggled to find any early offensive rhythm, and Utah was only saved by the three-point shot. Over the first 12 minutes of the game, the Jazz hit four of their seven long-range shots and only one of their 10 two-point field goal attempts.
Everything considered, Utah could count itself lucky to only trail by 11 after the first quarter.
"We've got to do better executing our game plan, especially in the first quarter," said all-star forward Gordan Hayward. "They got a lot of stuff at the rim, easy dunks, lobs, and some of that's what they do, but we for sure have to be better."
In the second quarter, Joe Johnson entered the game off the bench and helped cut the Clippers' advantage to only five points only five minutes into the second period. Johnson, of course, hit the game winning shot in Game One of the series at the buzzer.
With Paul limited to only 13 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, the Clippers relied of Blake Griffin and Jordan to stay ahead of the Jazz. Griffin entered the halftime intermission with 13 points, while Jordan had already claimed a double-double by the break with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
As such, Utah trailed 51-42 after 24 minutes, and Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 12 points at the break.
"It was frustrating for us tonight," said Hayward. "I felt like we didn't--we didn't play our best basketball and we still hung around."
In the third quarter, the Jazz trimmed the deficit to only three points with 7:31 remaining in the period, as Utah looked set to taste its first lead of the night. However, Paul led a furious 15-6 run over the next four minutes to take a 12-point lead.
"They keep fighting," Griffin told NBC LA after the game about the Jazz. "They keep executing. I've said it over and over, but they're really well-coached. They don't panic."
Although the Jazz put together a run to close the gap to only six points, a late flurry by the Clippers' bench provided LA with a 79-70 advantage with 12 minutes remaining in Tuesday's contest.
Despite the Clippers leading from the opening whistle, a Hayward three-pointer with 5:54 remaining made it a six-point game. Down the stretch, the Clippers had to hold off a Jazz team that seemingly refused to give up.
With two minutes to play, the Jazz still trailed by only six points, but a Griffin three-pointer put the Clippers up by nine points and effectively iced the game for the home team.
"We had two days of being pretty pissed off," said Griffin of the victory. "I thought our spirit was great, and I think it carried over into the first quarter, with everybody being aggressive."
In the final minute, Jordan fouled out with 18 points and 15 rebounds in 35 minutes, but the big man's impact had already been felt at that stage. On the night, the Clippers outscored the Jazz 60-38 on points in the paint.
Paul finished with 21 points, 10 assists and three steals in the victory.
Game Three will be in Salt Lake City on Friday.