Paul scores 34, Clippers beat Jazz 111-106 to take 2-1 lead
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers sounded in awe of his point guard after watching Chris Paul beat the Utah Jazz with a fantastic fourth-quarter performance.
Paul scored a season-high 34 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied for a 111-106 victory Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
''He has an amazing will,'' Rivers said. ''He's just a tough guy. He's stubborn in a very, very positive way. All the great ones have that in them. They're stubborn like they aren't going to lose.
''And that's how he felt. And you could feel that. His energy and that kind of rubbed off on everybody on the team.''
The Jazz led most of the game before Paul took over in the fourth quarter and powered a 15-0 run that gave the Clippers a 103-96 lead with 2:09 remaining. Utah never led again.
The Clippers overcame a spectacular night from Gordon Hayward, who scored a career-high 40 points. But Paul simply dominated the fourth quarter, scoring nine straight himself during the run and getting wherever he wanted on the floor. He iced the game with a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining and finished with seven rebounds and 10 assists.
''I'm just always looking at the scoreboard trying to manage the game,'' Paul said. ''I was just trying to pick my spots. That's a good team over there. They stick to their principles.
''Me and (DeAndre Jordan) on the ball-screens just tried to keep getting creative and tried to figure out ways to make plays.''
Jordan had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers, who played without the injured Blake Griffin in the second half. Luc Mbah a Moute scored a career playoff-high 15 points.
''That's a difficult cover,'' Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of Paul. ''We put different guys on him and covered the pick-and-roll a few different ways. That's really all you can do is maybe try to give him some different looks because he's usually going to figure out if you're doing one thing - as you saw during the third quarter.
''You just keep trying to adjust as best as you can and compete. The hard thing for us is when we did get some stops, they got second shots.''
Joe Johnson tried to will the Jazz to victory in the fourth quarter after Hayward slowed down, finishing with 15 points off the bench. George Hill scored 26 thanks to a 13-point third quarter, then said the Jazz needed to win the next game.
''Yes, it's a must-win situation for us,'' he said. ''You never want to go down 3-1, especially going back to their home court.''
Griffin left the game with 3:18 remaining in the second quarter and did not return after landing awkwardly following a transition layup. The Clippers ruled it a bruised right big toe. The five-time All-Star had 11 points, six rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes.
Griffin had X-rays at the arena that were negative and the Clippers planned to re-evaluate him later Friday night.
''One of the biggest adjustments is we probably won't be able to play through the post so much,'' Paul said. ''He's such a dynamic player. We go to him in the post and we cut and move off him. ... He's our other assist guy.
''Just his leadership, it's just a different feeling when he's on the court.''
Clippers: Austin Rivers missed his third game of the series due to a strained left hamstring. ... Paul passed Wilt Chamberlain to rank No. 30 on the NBA's career playoff assists list.
Jazz: Alec Burks sat out after getting a platelet rich plasma injection in his left knee on Thursday. ... Hill surpassed the 1,000 career playoff points plateau in the third quarter. ... Hayward's 21 first-quarter points was a franchise playoff record for any one quarter.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert did not play again due to a hyperextended left knee and bone contusion suffered 17 seconds into the series opener. Derrick Favors started at center and Boris Diaw opened at power forward.
Snyder said he and Doc Rivers have talked about how both teams have been injury plagued this season.
''The bottom line is nobody will remember who is playing and who is not playing,'' Snyder said. ''They will just remember which team was able to win.''
''We lost, so none of that matters,'' Hayward said of the 40 points.
''I've had a man crush on him for three years now and he continues to be great,'' Rivers said of Hayward.
The Jazz host the Clippers for Game 4 on Sunday.
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|34.6||Min. Per Game||34.6|
|21.4||Pts. Per Game||21.4|
|3.5||Ast. Per Game||3.5|
|5.5||Reb. Per Game||5.5|
|48.9||Field Goal %||47.0|
|46.2||Three Point %||45.8|
|76.5||Free Throw %||85.2|
|Field Goals||0-0 (0.0%)||0-0 (0.0%)|
|3-Pointers||0-0 (0.0%)||0-0 (0.0%)|
|Free Throws||0-0 (0.0%)||0-0 (0.0%)|