Of all the buildings that have served as the Los Angeles Clippers’ houses of horrors over the years, none has created bigger nightmares for them than EnergySolutions Arena.
Before the Clippers won in Salt Lake City last season, they had not won a game in Utah since Jan. 22, 2003, and had won only once in Salt Lake City since April 18, 1989, which was one month after Blake Griffin was born. The Clippers had not won two straight in Utah since 1980, a stretch of 44 games.
It looked like the streak would continue Monday night, as the Utah Jazz took a 14-point second-half lead against the Clippers and were in control of the game in the fourth quarter before the Clippers came back late and outscored the Jazz 32-21 in the final period.
The Clippers beat the Jazz 105-104 and snapped Utah’s streak of 12 straight home wins dating back to last season. In the process, Los Angeles broke its own three-game road losing streak. The win also put the Clippers atop the Pacific Division and three games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Griffin’s big night
Through three quarters Monday evening, Griffin was seemingly the only member of the Clippers who came to play. No other Clippers player had reached double figures by the start the fourth quarter; meanwhile, the Jazz had five players in double figures at that point. Griffin finished the game with 30 points and 11 rebounds, and was the biggest reason the Clippers were in the game late. While the Clippers were outscored in the paint 36-20 in the first half, they outscored the Jazz in the paint 36-14 in the second half. It was Griffin’s first 30-point game of the season. Even more impressive was his aggressiveness on both sides of the court late in the game, after struggling in those spots during the end of the Clippers’ previous road trip. “[My teammates] gave me the confidence,” Griffin told Prime Ticket on the court after the game. “They told me to keep shooting. They told me to keep attacking. Thankfully, some of [the shots] dropped, and they gave me the ball in the right spots.”
Odom turns a corner
Even though Lamar Odom hasn’t missed a game this season, some within the organization continued to view him the same way they did Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, who were recovering from injuries. In Odom’s case, he wasn’t really injured -- outside of his sore knees -- but overweight. He has lost about 15 pounds since the start of the season and is beginning to show signs of his former self. He played 18 minutes Monday, and finished with seven points, six rebounds and a block. More important, his points and rebounds came during timely situations in the second half as the Clippers were making a comeback. Combine that with playing 21 minutes against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, and finishing with six points, five rebounds and five assists, and Odom has strung together his best set of games in more than a year. “He was active,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters after the game. “He made a couple of good passes out of the side out of bounds late, which was important for us. He can see over the defense. He had a couple shots and rebounds, and spaced the floor for us. He’s just getting his timing back, but he’s a weapon for us and is only going to get better with time.”
The biggest thing the Clippers failed to do in their previous three defeats on the road was finish strong. They totally collapsed late in their losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks. Against the Jazz, despite trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, the Clippers continued to chip away at Utah’s lead before taking control of the game. Once again, the biggest reason for the turnaround was the Clippers' bench. After sleepwalking through three quarters, the Clippers' reserves came to life, as Jamal Crawford finished with 20 points, Eric Bledsoe added 10 points, and Odom and Matt Barnes combined for 14 points. “We have to use our depth,” Del Negro said. “It was like two teams in the first half and the second half, but I’m proud of the way the guys stuck together and battled through it and made plays down the stretch.”