The Utah Jazz’s nine-game winning streak has come to an end.
In a battle of two of the Western Conference’s best, Kawhi Leonard and the L.A. Clippers edged out Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz, 116-112, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Mitchell scored a game-high 35 points as he tried to rally his squad to victory late.
“This is a bump in the road, and a good one in my opinion,” Mitchell said. “I think this is one that we can look at and say, ‘OK, we stayed with them, but this is what separated the game.’ I’m proud of the way we played and competed but there’s definitely room for improvement.”
The Clippers led by 13 when guard Patrick Beverley hit a 3-pointer with 2:38 left on the clock.
But Mitchell and the Jazz wouldn’t quit. Mitchell scored 12 of his 35 points in the final 1:23 of the game to keep the pressure on L.A.
In the end, the Jazz would fall to 2-1 in the season series with the Clippers, but the Jazz said there will be lessons learned from this game that will help the Jazz in their long-term goals.
| Don: 35p | 5a | 4 3pm | 4r | 3s
Bojan: 23p | 4 3pm | 2a
JC: 19p | 2s | 1r
Mike: 16p | 2 3pm | 1b
Rudy: 15r | 8p | 3b | 1a
Derrick: 7r | 6p | 1s
Royce: 6r | 3a#podiumpostgame | @podiumhq pic.twitter.com/GsqplX5SfW
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 20, 2021
“They’re obviously a really good team and tough to handle,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “But I like how we competed. These are the games that we talk about. Whether or not we win—obviously it’s nice to win them—but we’re trying to get better and that’s where our mindset is. As disappointed as you are that you don’t win the game, this is another situation we want to take and use to get better.”
One area that hurt the Jazz on Friday night: offensive rebounding. L.A. won that battle 11-6 and outscored the Jazz 16-8 on second-chance points.
“We have to find a way to communicate better and just box out and get those rebounds,” Rudy Gobert said. “I think that was the key tonight. … If we get those rebounds, we win the game.”
After missing six straight games with hamstring tightness, Mike Conley was back in the starting lineup.
“Our health and performance staff has done a great job,” Snyder said before the game. “They’re constantly watching how he’s moving and how he’s playing, with feedback from Mike. He’s ready to go.”
Indeed. Conley wasted no time getting back into the swing of things and making his presence felt. The point guard walked into a 3 for the team’s first bucket of the game and followed that up with a floater on the next possession.
When the Clippers went on an early 10-0 run, it was Conley who ended it with a bucket.
But the Clippers’ defense hounded the Jazz; Utah shot just 1-for-6 from deep in the first quarter. So despite nine first-quarter points from their veteran guard, the Jazz trailed 31-21 after one period.
By the time Leonard hit a turnaround jumper with 2:34 to play in the half, the L.A. lead was 15.
Utah closed the half on a positive note though. A defensive stop led to a Bojan Bogdanovic fast-break that cut the advantage to eight points at intermission.
After being hounded by Beverley early in the game, Mitchell found his groove in the second half. The guard scored against Leonard to tie the game at 61 midway through the third and then gave the Jazz a lead with a 3-pointer on the next trip up the court.
The Clippers, however, would answer back.
L.A. found success going small with Marcus Morris at center and spacing the floor with shooters at every position.
“That’s a tough matchup for us, or anyone really,” Snyder said. “You want to try to help, but it’s hard to come off anyone. We came off Pat Beverley and he made a big shot.”
The Jazz are no 24-6 on the year and still hold the season tiebreaker over L.A.
Snyder and his squad will no doubt use the game as a chance to refocus and improve as they eye bigger goals ahead.
“We knew that this team was one of the top teams in the league, especially when everyone’s in the lineup,” Mike Conley said. “Their ability to cause problems, both offensively and defensively, throughout the game is what we’re going to have to compete against and beat in order for us to get to our ultimate goal.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 20, 2021
A bill to honor the late Jerry Sloan has been unveiled at the Utah state legislature.
The resolution seeks to recognize the life and legacy of the Hall of Fame Jazz coach, who died last May at the age of 78 after years of battling Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
During his time with the Jazz, Sloan led the franchise to 1,223 wins, 19 playoff berths, seven division titles, and two NBA Finals appearances.
Sloan “exemplified the values of Utah and brought fans from all walks of life together to take pride in the Utah Jazz,” the resolution states. The resolution calls Sloan “a great citizen of the state … for his leadership of the Utah Jazz and the positive impact he has had not only on basketball but also on the citizens of Utah.”
The resolution was introduced in a senate committee Friday.
Star rookie LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets are coming to Salt Lake City on Monday. Tipoff at Vivint Arena is set for 7 p.m.