Blake Griffin scored 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds during the Clippers… (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)
SALT LAKE CITY — Good thing for the Clippers there are 48 minutes in an NBA game. They needed, and used, every one of them Monday night against the Utah Jazz.
It's also a good thing for the Clippers that they have one of the best benches in the NBA, and that their starters know how to close out games when given a reprieve.
So it all ended up good for the Clippers, a 105-104 victory over the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena leaving L.A. with a good vibe after delivering the Jazz its first home loss of the season.
In taking sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division, the Clippers got a season-high 30 points plus 11 rebounds from Blake Griffin, six of Chris Paul's 14 points in the fourth quarter, and 20 points from reserve Jamal Crawford. But afterward, Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro still lamented the poor start.
The starters fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter and then again by 14 points in the third.
"The first half pretty much looked like we wasted a bunch of jet fuel getting up here because no one showed up," Del Negro said. "It was just kind of a waste of time.
"Our starters didn't do a good job. We had no toughness. We were soft. Our defense was weak."
But the bench was nothing like that. The reserves combined for 44 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and a blocked shot.
"Our bench won the game for us," starting guard Chauncey Billups said. "The starters, we came out and weren't good enough early. But our bench came in and kept us in the game. We, the starters, closed it, but the bench won this game for us."
There were some crucial plays that the starters made to help seal the win.
DeAndre Jordan blocked a shot by Al Jefferson with 26.9 seconds left and the Clippers holding onto a two-point lead.
"He covered a lot of ground and blocked that shot," said Paul, who had two key driving layups late in the fourth quarter. "That was the play of the game."
Billups played a role, making two of three free throws to tie the score at 99-99 with 1:14 left after being fouled by Mo Williams while attempting a three-pointer.
Paul drove for a layup and a 101-99 lead with 39.9 seconds left.
Then came the big defensive play by Jordan.
Jordan went over to help on Paul Millsap rolling down the lane. But when Millsap passed to Jefferson (16 points, 10 rebounds), Jordan recovered and blocked the shot.
"It was my rotation to get over if they dropped the ball off to [Millsap]," Jordan said. "I just wanted to be big. I saw him drop the ball off the Al. He shot a floater and I got it."
Still, the Clippers had to play this game all the way out to the end.
After Crawford made two free throws for a 105-101 lead with 5.7 seconds left, former Clipper Randy Foye (19 points) made a three-pointer. Billups then inbounded with 0.7 of a second left and threw the ball away trying to get it to Paul.
Foye got the steal, but his shot (which missed) came after the buzzer had sounded anyway.
"The starters have to do a better job right out of the gate," Griffin said. "We were fortunate."