Clippers pull away from Jazz for 17th win in a row

Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The way things are going for the Los Angeles Clippers, even a disappearing act by Blake Griffin is not enough to stop the magic.
Not with Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford able to pull a rabbit out of a hat in a moment's notice.
Butler scored 29 points, including 17 in the first quarter, and Crawford dominated the fourth quarter as the Clippers picked up their 17th consecutive win, beating the Utah Jazz 107-96 Sunday night at Staples Center.
After barely eking out wins in two previous matchups with the Jazz this season -- 116-114 at Utah on Friday night and 105-104 at Staples Center on Dec. 3 -- the Clippers survived a brutal third-quarter stretch Sunday before their balanced bench sparked a big fourth quarter.
The Jazz used a 17-4 run to take a 76-75 lead with just under two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Clippers regained the lead -- and the momentum -- in a hurry, never looking back. Los Angeles outscored Utah 28-20 in the fourth quarter while hitting 10 of 12 free throws. Crawford had 11 points in the quarter to help lift the Clippers to the win.
"Jamal is points from anywhere, from a variety of different ways," said Griffin, who was limited to seven points and seven rebounds in just under 26 minutes of action. "He can shoot the 3, he gets to the hole, he gets fouled. He's done a great job of passing and setting up teammates throughout this streak. He's a huge part of our offense, especially that second group that comes in. He's really the guy we look to to make plays when things aren't happening."
Butler, however, deserves credit for keeping his teammates in Sunday's game.
Butler he hit all five of his 3-point attempts in the first quarter to stake the Clippers a 29-24 lead. Los Angeles shot 57 percent from the field in the opening period, then got even hotter in the second, hitting 11 of 16 attempts to claim a 54-45 halftime advantage.
"That was huge, no question," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of Butler's early efforts. "I said that after the game to Caron; I thought he gave us a big boost early and in the third quarter, just scoring the ball. I thought we were -- I don't want to say lethargic -- but we just didn't have that extra step early on. We finally found our way, got our rhythm back, and different guys stepped up."
Chris Paul and Crawford each finished with 19 points for the Clippers, and Paul added nine assists and five steals. Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan scored 14 points.
Al Jefferson had 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting to lead Utah. Gordon Hayward added 16 points off the bench for the Jazz, who have lost three straight. The fell by five points or fewer for the fifth time this season.
"We've been right there, but I don't think that's good enough," Hayward said. "We have to be able to finish plays at the end of the games. We can't have those lapses where we don't score the basketball, where we give up a 10-0 run, a 12-0 run."
NOTES: Chauncey Billups (peroneal tendinitis), Grant Hill (knee) and Trey Thompkins (knee) remain out for the Clippers. ... Former Los Angeles guard Mo Williams (sprained right thumb) and Raja Bell (not with team) were sidelined for the Jazz. ... Utah guard Randy Foye played the previous two seasons with Los Angeles, averaging 10.4 points per game. He scored 10 points in 28 minutes Sunday. ... Entering the game, Paul led the NBA in assist-turnover ratio (4.42-to-1) and steals (79) and ranked second in assists (9.4 per game). ... Jordan had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Clippers' win Friday. ... Utah won back-to-back games over the Clippers in November 2008, the last time the two teams matched up in consecutive games. ... Utah entered the night ranked third in the NBA in offensive rebounds. The Jazz grabbed 10 offensive boards Sunday, just one more than the Clippers pulled down. ... Utah is 2-7 since its 99-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 12.