Right after Paul and his Clippers evened this first-round series at 1-1 with a 99-91 win late Tuesday night, a TNT sideline reporter asked the L.A. superstar what it will take for his team to win in Utah where Games 3 (Friday) and 4 (Sunday) will take place. They shot 38-for-64 inside the 3-point line, with Jordan missing only twice in 11 shots. At the break, Los Angeles had 34 points in the paint, while Utah only had 16. Oh, and he added 21 points and 10 assists, getting to his obligatory spot at the elbow on demand against a conservative Utah big-man defense that fears forays outside the paint. Derrick Favors and Game 1 hero Joe Johnson scored 13 apiece. DeAndre Jordan versus Rudy Gobert; two star centers, bruising defensive stalwarts and the anchors of their teams' identities.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the wary Staples Center crowd finally rose for the evening's first full-throated standing ovation, acknowledging consecutive offensive rebounds that helped the Clippers keep the Jazz at bay.
That it took the Clippers until Game 2 to figure out how to capitalize on Gobert's absence was the only surprise. Additionally, they lost the rebounding battle 39 -33 after having a clear advantage in Game 1.
"I've been in the trenches with him before and he's always bounced back", Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. Gobert did not return to the game after he was diagnosed with a hyperextension and bone bruise in his left knee.
The game never felt as close as it was, but give the Jazz credit, it was within reach.
In this case, without the Stifle Tower shutting down the paint, Chris Paul put on a show.
Fans seeking to attend Round 1, Home Game 1 and Home Game 2 are encouraged to purchase tickets at utahjazz.com, with no online fees, the Vivint Smart Home Arena box office (located on 100 South across the street from the John Stockton and Karl Malone statues), any Smith's Tix outlet or by phone at (801) 355-SEAT. The Clippers have held the lead for much of the series, but the Jazz have maintained the tempo.
Paul was the best player on the court on Tuesday night. In Game 2, the Clippers finally made a decision to use that mismatch to their advantage, with Chris Paul getting DeAndre Jordan going early and often. The Clippers were able to weather every run that Utah made and the heady play of their point guard is a big reason why.
Thanks to a CP3 interview after Game 2, this series now has that - well, depending on your interpretation of juicy controversy, among other words. The Clippers win Game 2 and tie the series before heading to Utah.
There is no quit in Utah.
The Clippers earlier suffered a 115-104 defeat against the Jazz despite a 36-point output from Griffin. But the Jazz refused to fall out of this game. A George Hill layup with five minutes and eleven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter was quieted by a Chris Paul three to extend the lead back to nine. They played their usual brand of unyielding basketball.
The Rockets won Game 7 too, sending the Clippers home yet again in embarrassing fashion. But in a game that could have been out of hand, the Jazz stayed focus and gritted out a tough performance.