A tough second half erased a contending first-half performance for the Clippers. Center Ivica Zubac stepped up in the wake of center Montrezl Harrell being sidelined due to illness, the team forced turnovers and fought to extend possessions.
Yet, they were not prepared for the nimble and plucky guard Donovan Mitchell who made 30 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. He ultimately led the Jazz to a 120-107 win over the Clippers.
Forward Paul George led the Clippers with 20 points although he alleged he was falling under the weather as the game progressed. Center Ivica Zubac made 12 rebounds, nine being offensive.
Forward Royce O’Neale led Utah with 10 rebounds; he was one of six Jazz players to score in the double digits.
The Jazz launched to a 7-2 lead and lost it just as quickly. Clippers scored through second-chance points and buckets in the paint by Patrick Beverley. Forward Paul George hit a three-pointer to lift the Clippers above the Jazz by 10 points.
Los Angeles worked on disrupting the rebounding of center Rudy Gobert, who gets 4.4 second-chance points per game. Clippers center Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green had the aggression to hold him to half of his rebounding average. Zubac gave seven of the team’s 10 offensive rebounds in the first quarter.
“Utah played great, they played hard,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. “[Ivica Zubac] single-handedly kept us in the first quarter with all the offensive rebounds.”
The second quarter featured the playmaking skills of guard Jordan Clarkson, who was recently traded on the Jazz in exchange for guard Dante Exum. Clarkson managed the Utah backcourt along with Joe Ingles, who was a reliable three-point shooter. The two combined for 22 points by halftime.
“Everybody is kind of real confident in me right now,” Clarkson said. “I’m just trying to get everything down all the terminology all the plays and everybody doing a really good job helping me.”
Yet the Clippers kept control of the ball by holding the Jazz to 22 rebounds and making defensive stops. Guard Donovan Mitchell hit two consecutive three-pointers in the final seconds of the second quarter to bring Utah within two points of the Clippers by the half.
Utah returned from intermission with new energy, center Rudy Gobert hustled for rebounds and made shots. Beverley rushed into the locker room in the early minutes of the third after sustaining a wrist injury. Several Jazz players executed from behind the arc.
“They did a great job on the perimeter,” Gobert said about his teammates. “I try to be physical and make these guys drive and then I had to be there and make sure they don’t get anything at the rim.”
A five-point run by reserves Lou Williams and Landry Shamet would close a seven-point deficit to two points. Mitchell responded swiftly with a three pointer and a driving shot.
“He’s a rising star,” George said about Mitchell. “He’s been a playmaker, he’s been a scorer, he’s been a reliable guy.”
Beverley returned to the hardwood in the fourth, helping keep the game close. Mitchell ran the baseline for a dunk, guard Landry Shamet responded with a three-pointer. When shots weren’t falling for the Clippers, they blocked shots by the Jazz. But that did not keep the Utah guards from shooting accurately.
“They’re a really solid team, they got a lot of shooters,” Beverley said. “Their speed, their ability to shoot the ball, but their ability to spread the floor, it makes it dangerous for you to guard anybody.”