The Los Angeles Clippers (22-9) saw the return of their two All-Stars last night. They led the way to ending the NBA leading Utah Jazz’s (24-6) 9 game win streak with a hard fought victory at Staples Center 116-112. The Clips FINALLY, at long last, had their full complement of players at their disposal. Thankfully too, because they needed contributions on both ends from everyone in order to get revenge for Wednesday night’s loss. Although the Clippers were able to gain as much as a 15 point lead, it never seemed to last for long as it was a tight game throughout.
Whenever the Clippers seemed like they could pull away, Utah would come storming back. Donovan Mitchell had a bit of a rough first half, but you can’t keep a player like him down for long as he exploded in the last two quarters. He scored 2 late 3’s to almost will the Jazz to the win. But, some clutch free-throw shooting by LA saw them through in what seemed like the longest final 40 seconds in NBA history. There were some terrible officiating in this game; it seemed like those refs may have put money on the Jazz to win. But, LAC overcame it, and earned the split of this mini 2 game series. Thereby showing the NBA world who the REAL best team in the league is.
STAR OF THE GAME
If the Jazz had won the game I would have to give it to Mitchell with his 35 points and clutch play. However, they lost thank God; so I am giving the nod to the Clippers best player, Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi had sat out the previous 3 games with a thigh contusion. He did not miss a beat upon his return scoring 29 points along, with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block. I thought his minutes would be limited going in to this game. Apparently that was not the case as he logged a game high 37 minutes on the floor.
Kawhi came up clutch in the final minute as he grabbed 2 offensive rebounds on one possession to burn critical seconds off the clock as well knocking down 5 of 6 free throws. Kawhi was named an All-Star starter on Thursday night, and he looked every bit an All-Star in this game. Whether or not you agree with if that exhibition game should even be held, it sure is good to see him receiving the honor of having the chance to repeat his All-Star Game MVP performance from last year. He shouldn’t be the only Clipper representative there, as Paul George is expected to be named a reserve.
With everyone healthy and available for the first time in weeks, I actually have no concerns after this game. They executed in clutch time, and had good performances from everyone who got minutes. Anything I could choose to harp on would be nitpicking. How can I be concerned after defeating the team with the best record in the league? The only thing I can point out is just how bad the referees were in this game. Do these guys get performance reviews or what? They need to be held accountable for their lack of consistency. From beginning to end it looked like they wanted Utah to win. All the whistles were seemingly going the Jazz’s way. Kawhi at one point tried to go for the dunk of the year on Gobert, Rudy was able to block it, but was called for a foul.
The Jazz challenged the play, and came up successful. However, not only was the Gobert’s foul rescinded, but a foul was called on Kawhi! Freaking ridiculous because all contact initiated by Kawhi was incidental from his shot attempt. Then in the closing minutes of the game a foul was reviewed for clear-path. It was ultimately ruled a common foul. Everyone from home could see that Pat was ahead, so why couldn’t the officials? Getting 2 free throws plus possession would have all but sealed the win for the Clippers, but it seemed the refs just could not have that. Those were the just 2 of the more egregious calls of a night of terrible calls. Rulings like those make me think that NBA should investigate every one of their referees for gambling.
Patrick Beverley and his 17 points. Beverly has missed some serious amount of time this year, and it looked like the extra rest served him well for this game. He is mostly out there for his defense, and whatever points he gives you are just a bonus. So not being a noted scorer, his 17 points were a bit surprising. He gets a lot of clean looks from 3, as teams tend to double off of him. He made the Jazz pay for leaving him open last night as he made 3 out of 5 of them. Each one of them came at crucial points in the contest.
Then at the end of regulation he came up big by nailing his free throws to ice the game. Those makes from the charity stripe were indeed big time, because the Jazz were making it dangerous all the way down to the final second. This game should go a long way with Coach Lue having confidence and trust enough in Pat to keep him out there in the final minutes of close games here in the regular season, and later in the playoffs.
Vs Brooklyn Nets, Sunday, February 21st at 5:00PM Pacific
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