10:30 PM ET, March 1, 2010
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES -- Blowing large leads isn't exactly uncommon for the Los Angeles Clippers, who came within two points of squandering a 17-point margin in the final 6½ minutes against the Utah Jazz before completing a rare wire-to-wire victory.
Eric Gordon scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter on Monday night in a 108-104 win that snapped a six-game losing streak against the Jazz.
"It was a case of them running out of time and us looking for time to run out," newly acquired Drew Gooden said. "They had us on our heels, making big, aggressive plays down the stretch, but we made big stops at the end and held them off."
The Clippers already lost games in which they led Toronto by 22 points, New York by 20 and Memphis by 18. Just three weeks ago, they lost to the Jazz 109-99 at Staples Center after leading by 11 points with 8 minutes remaining.
"When we get up by that many points, we get lackadaisical and lose concentration and focus. And in this league, all you need is two minutes and a team can erase a 10-point lead," point guard Baron Davis said. "We've got the talent to win the close games. Hopefully, we can start to build a little confidence to play down the stretch and get a rhythm the rest of the season."
The Clippers opened the game with a 23-9 run that included 3-pointers by Davis, Chris Kaman and Rasual Butler, and handed the Jazz only their second wire-to-wire loss this season. The other was against Staples Center's other NBA tenant, the defending champion Lakers, who beat them 96-91 at Utah on Feb. 10 without the injured Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum.
"We did not have any energy throughout the game, and we waited until the end of the game to get back in it," coach Jerry Sloan said. "They shot the ball well behind the 3-point line, and that was one of the biggest reasons why they took over the game in the first half."
Los Angeles has won four of its last six games after dropping its first five under interim coach Kim Hughes. Every starter reached double figures before the third quarter ended. Gooden had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Kaman added 18 points and 14 boards, and Davis finished with 19 points and 12 assists.
Carlos Boozer scored 20 points for the Jazz, who were coming off their second straight 10-win month. Andrei Kirilenko, who sat out three of Utah's previous four games because of back spasms, had 13 points in 29 minutes and was 6 for 15 from the field. First-time All-Star Deron Williams missed eight of his first nine shots, finishing 5 for 15 with 13 points and 13 assists.
"We had a good comeback," Boozer said. "That's a good team with the new additions they've had, and they played very well tonight. We did not have control of this game, and we knew that from the beginning."
Gordon's fourth and final 3-pointer of the game gave Los Angeles its biggest lead, 95-78, before the Jazz used a 14-2 run to cut the margin to 101-98 with 1:05 to play.
"It got a little careless toward the end of the fourth quarter, and we made a lot of turnovers that they converted at the other end," Gordon said. "They're a real dangerous team, and they're really hard to guard. That's why it's possible for them to beat anybody down the stretch."
Williams' three-point play got Utah as close as 103-101 with 40 seconds left. He had a chance to tie it with 16 seconds on the clock, but missed both free throws, and Butler and Kaman each hit two foul shots at the other end to close it out.
"There was no sense of panic at all. They did a great job of coming back, but the main thing was staying together and getting stops," Gooden said. "Deron Williams missed two free throws, which was clutch for them and big for us."
Kyle Korver, who was born in nearby Lakewood, scored nine of his 16 points off the bench during an 11-0 run -- including a four-point play -- to help slice Utah's 14-point deficit to 38-35 with 5:52 left in the half.
The Jazz (38-22) have lost seven games this season by margins of four points or less. Had they won those games, they would be only one game behind the Lakers for the Western Conference lead -- and just 2½ behind Cleveland for the NBA's best record. Instead, they find themselves trying to hang onto fourth place and secure home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
"I realize those things, but that'll eat you alive and drive yourself crazy and make you jump off a building. And I've been around too long to want to do that," Sloan said. "You're going to have 10 or 15 games that you look back on after the season and say maybe you should have won those. But the other teams have those games as well, so you can't worry about those games once they're over. I automatically forget -- because I can't remember."
Boozer was named Monday as Western Conference player of the month, after averaging 21.2 points, 13.0 rebounds and 60.4 percent from the field during Utah's 13 games in February. He had 34 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four steals in the Feb. 9 win over the Clippers. ... Kirilenko got his 1,300th career block when he rejected a layup by DeAndre Jordan with 3:39 left in the first quarter. The only player in Jazz history with more is Mark Eaton (3,064). ... Sloan acknowledged before the game that 15-year veteran swingman Michael Finley was worth a look, after San Antonio granted Finley's request to be released from his contract on Monday so that he could hook on with another club that would give him more playing time. Finley, who won a championship ring with the Spurs in 2007, turns 37 on Saturday. "An experienced player looks like something that would be good for our team," Sloan said. "But we've got to see what's out there -- whether it's a young guy who you think might have a chance to make your team better down the road, or a veteran player with experience. It's a question we'll have to answer."
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||38-89 (.427)||36-75 (.480)|
|3PM-3PA||4-15 (.267)||10-22 (.455)|
|FTM-FTA||24-31 (.774)||26-29 (.897)|
|Fast Break Points||18||11|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||22 (0/0)||18 (0/0)|