- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin had been in this position before.
He had paced the sideline as his Jazz held a late lead over the Los Angeles Clippers only to watch as the Clippers someway, somehow willed their way to a win.
But there’s something different about the way the Clippers are winning now. Corbin has now seen them beat his Jazz three times this season, twice in Salt Lake City, and each time he has sensed a difference in the league’s hottest team.
“They’re more confident,” Corbin said. “They feel great about how they’re playing. They feel like they can overcome any situation. We had them down in the third quarter by 19 points and they didn’t wither at all. They just continued to pick the pace up and pick their defense up, and as a result they won the game in the fourth quarter. They’re a good team that’s getting better and better and better as their confidence is growing.”
That confidence grew even larger Sunday night as the Clippers beat the Jazz 107-96 to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 17 games and complete just the third 16-0 month in NBA history.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Butler did it
Caron Butler, who is averaging 9.5 points per game this season, came out strong for the Clippers to start the game. He scored 17 points in the first quarter and hit all five of his 3-point attempts. He went 6-for-8 from the field in the opening quarter and also added two rebounds. Butler, not surprisingly, cooled off in the second quarter, missing his only attempt and failing to score a single point. He regained his hot hand after halftime, scoring 12 points and hitting 4 of 5 attempts, including a 3-pointer. On the night, Butler finished with 29 points and hit all six of his 3-point attempts. It’s the most points Butler has scored in a game this season since he had 33 points and hit nine 3-pointers in a loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Nov. 26. That game was also the last time the Clippers lost.
It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Clippers got it done thanks in large part to the play of role players such as Butler and Jamal Crawford, who combined to score 48 points. Meanwhile, Blake Griffin had just seven points and seven rebounds, which is well below his average this month and during the Clippers’ winning streak, which had been 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. Officiating played a large role in that, as the referees were letting the Jazz’s bigs, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Paul Millsap rough up Griffin in the paint before he was taken out after he got four personal fouls and a technical. Griffin returned to the game late in the fourth quarter to help the Clippers finish the game.
A Tribe Called Bench
One of the brightest spots on the Clippers during their winning streak has been the play of the Clippers’ bench, but for the second straight game they struggled to get anything going in a tight win over Utah. The Clippers scored just 25 points in their win at Utah on Friday and only had 33 points in their win on Sunday. Crawford was the biggest contributor, scoring 19 points and grabbing four rebounds. The rest of the bench combined for just 14 points and 11 rebounds.