LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Clippers saw this visit by the injury-depleted Utah Jazz as a perfect opportunity to get a jump on what will be one of the most grueling stretches of road games any NBA team will face this season.
“Coach told us this was definitely a game that we should win,” Richardson said. “Our defense played really well. We played unselfish early, and that helped us. If our defense plays well, it makes it easier to win games.”
The Clippers will play 14 of their next 16 games on the road, including 10 of 11 leading into the All-Star break. They are 4-11 away from Staples Center.
“It is a long time to be away, obviously, but I can’t change it,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “The travel part of it can be tough, and you worry about the toll the back-to-backs take on you. Everybody’s seeing it as the “trip to hell,’ but we can turn it into a positive.
“One thing is, we’re going to be together for a while, and it can be a bonding opportunity. And if you come out of it in good shape, it becomes a catalyst for your season.”
Richardson was a catalyst against the Jazz. He fueled a 17-3 run with three 3-pointers in a 2:26 span, helping Los Angeles build a 31-25 lead through one quarter. Richardson finished 11-for-20 from the field and added eight rebounds and six assists.
“He came out on fire,” Utah’s Raja Bell said. “I thought I was playing pretty good D on him for the most part. I tried to stay down and keep him as far off the block as I could when he was posting up, but he was hitting some tough shots. Once he started hitting those, then everything opened up for him.”
Brand added nine rebounds and five assists and went 12-for-14 from the free throw line to help the Clippers win consecutive games for the first time since a four-game winning streak Dec. 10-17.
Utah center Greg Ostertag, playing in his 600th NBA game, had 16 points and 12 rebounds but missed six of eight free throws.
Carlos Arroyo also had 16 points for the Jazz, who shot 38.4 percent from the field—the seventh time they were under 40 percent this season. Utah began the second half of its schedule without forward Andrei Kirilenko, who missed his third straight game because of a sprained right ankle.
“We’re doing the best we can,” Bell said. “I don’t think any of us has a solution for it. We just understand that we’re going to have to play that much harder. We’ve going through a tough stretch right now and we’re going to have to figure it out.”
The Jazz, who have not been under the .500 mark all season, slipped to 21-21 after their fourth consecutive loss and sixth straight on the road. And Saturday night, they host the Lakers, who have lost eight straight road games.
“I don’t think there’s as much urgency to beat them and keep from going under .500 as there is that we’ve lost four in a row and we need to take care of our home court. With or without Andrei, we need a win,” Bell said.
The Jazz used their 11th different lineup—one more than all of last season—as Bell and Michael Ruffin started together in the frontcourt for the first time. Bell replaced rookie Sasha Pavlovic, who shot 1-for-11 in Tuesday’s 96-75 home loss to Denver.
The Clippers led throughout the final three quarters, extending an eight-point lead to as many as 15 with a 7-0 run at the start of the fourth.
Reserve forward Jarron Collins narrowed the gap to 85-76 on a 16-footer and a three-point play with 4 1/2 minutes left, but the Jazz got no closer than eightdespite Los Angeles not making a field goal over the final 5:22.
Longtime Jazz forward Karl Malone, currently on the injured list with a sprained right knee, chose not to accompany the Lakers on their trip to Utah because he wanted to avoid the hoopla. … Utah coach Jerry Sloan needs four more victories to join Lenny Wilkens, Don Nelson and Larry Brown as the onlycurrent NBA coaches with at least 900 regular-season wins.