The Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t get it in gear in their second home preseason game and lost to the Utah Jazz 94-96 Monday night at Staples Center.
The Clippers started the game with what may be their regular season starting lineup of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Alan Anderson, Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. It will be interesting to see who receives the bulk of minutes at small forward this season for the Clippers as the starting spot is seen as “wide open.”
The Jazz came out strong, making it a point to get the ball in the paint. Center Rudy Gobert looked strong as ever to start, battling with Jordan down-low and scoring seven points in the opening quarter.
The Clippers struggled to get a bucket until Griffin began hammering the opposition, bringing them back in the game with his six first quarter points.
Utah continued to work the inside and mid-range game against the Clippers, knocking down 10 of 20 shots and converted one of their two 3-point attempts. The Clippers offensive struggles continued throughout the quarter, as they finished the period shooting just 6 for 20 overall and only made 1 of 10 three-pointers.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers experimented with a few different small-ball lineups in the second quarter, putting Speights at center alongside Pierce, Crawford, Rivers and Paul.
The Clippers’ smaller lineup was effective offensively, but got dominated by Utah on the glass, prompting Rivers to re-insert his starting frontcourt.
With Griffin and Jordan back on the court, the Clippers looked to make a run but were halted by three consecutive turnovers in the final two minutes of the first half.
Reddick made a three-pointer and Paul hit two free-throws to end the second quarter. At that point, the Clippers trailed the Jazz, 46-37.
The Clippers finished the first half with a miserable shooting performance, making just 33.3 percent of their shots compared the Jazz who knocked down 54 percent of their attempts.
The Clippers started the second half with Mbah a Moute filling in for Anderson at the small forward spot.
After regrouping in the locker-room, the Clippers came out of the half on a tear, going on an 11-0 run and taking a 48-46 lead.
The teams went back and forth for most of the third quarter until the Los Angeles starters went to the bench, allowing the Jazz to break away for a 64-59 lead with just under three minutes left in the quarter. Speights hit a three at the end of the third with 3.2 seconds left to make it 69-66 in favor of the Clippers.
With the exception of Paul, who played only the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, the Clippers elected to bench their starters for the remainder of the game. With Paul and Co. on the bench, Crawford looked to step up in their absence.
The Six Man of the Year award winner went off for 14 points in the final period, tying the game at 85-85 with a nifty floater through traffic.
The teams exchanged baskets until Austin Rivers fumbled the ball with 22.5 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Utah a 95-93 lead.
Clippers fans thought that Crawford may have saved the day as he was fouled on a three-point attempt, but the backup guard missed one free-throw, before turning the ball over on their last possession.
For the game, Paul had 14 points, five assists and three turnovers. Blake Griffin finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Rodney Hood led the Jazz with 17 points and three rebounds.
Joey Thomas is a Los Angeles native and an NBA junkie. Follow him on twitter and instagram @joeythomasss