The Jazz were reeling.
Playing without Gordon Hayward. Down by seven with under eight minutes left. Nobody making shots. A sold-out crowd growing quieter by the second.
And then Utah’s wings stepped up. Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood combined to shoot 9-for-10 over the final seven minutes, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range, to lead the Jazz to a 105-98 victory.
The series is now tied 2-2, with Game 5 scheduled for Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
“I thought we took it upon ourselves to be more aggressive—whether it was offensively or defensively—knowing that we had to make plays to get ourselves over the hump,” Johnson said. “I thought Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood and those guys were huge down the stretch.”
The Jazz also got a much-needed boost from the return of Rudy Gobert, who had missed the last three games with a hyperextended knee. The Stifle Tower started and played 24 minutes, finishing with 15 points (on 6-for-6 shooting), 13 rebounds and two blocks.
Gobert’s quicker-than-anticipated return, though, coincided with the (temporary) loss of Hayward.
Two nights after scoring a career-high 40 points, Hayward played only nine first-half minutes because of severe food poisoning (he had received IVs throughout the day leading up to the game and then left the arena at halftime). Hayward’s only points came on a corner three early in the first quarter.
Johnson led the way with 28 points off the bench. Hood (18 points) and Derrick Favors (17 points) also stepped up in Hayward’s absence. Ingles stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, six rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and one block in 38 minutes.
Chris Paul nearly triple-doubled in the loss, finishing with 27 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists. Jamal Crawford exploded for 25 points (on 9-for-13 shooting, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range) off the bench for the Clippers.
The Jazz desperately needed someone to step up down the stretch, and—just like in Game 1—that man was Joe Johnson. The 16-year NBA veteran turned back the clock, scoring 28 points (on 12-for-17 shooting), including 13 in the fourth quarter. He added five rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes.
After a slow start (no points in the first two-plus minutes) Ingles grabbed a steal and took it all the way to the hoop for a layup. And then Gobert made the play every Jazz fan was hoping for—he grabbed an offensive rebound over Marreese Speights and slammed home an emphatic two-handed dunk. Hayward added a corner three, and Utah was in business.
The Clippers took a five-point lead (thank to Paul, of course) with just over three minutes left in the second quarter, but the Jazz responded with a 13-5 run to close the first half. Gobert had two buckets—a put-back layup and driving finger roll—and two free throws, while Hood hit a turnaround jumper and canned a corner three.
The Jazz were on the ropes midway through the fourth quarter when Johnson took over, scoring 11 straight Utah points to turn a seven-point deficit into a one-point lead with 3:55 left in the game. With the Jazz down 87-80, Paul was called for traveling. Johnson immediately drilled a 3-pointer. His other four buckets were vintage JJ—working down on the block, bullying his defender into turnaround jumpers and push shots in the lane. Ingles and Hood joined in with back-to-back threes, and then Hood drove into the lane and hit a running push shot to give Utah a 99-92 lead with 1:30 left. Ingles hit nothing but net on another corner three with just under a minute remaining to seal the victory.
This game came down to cruch-time execution, and the Jazz simply made more plays down the stretch. Utah shot 10-for-14 from the field and outscored the Clippers 28-18 in the fourth quarter (and 25-11 over the final seven minutes). LA shot only 5-for-16 (31.3 percent) in the final period.
With Gobert back and Favors playing a more manageable workload (24 minutes), the Jazz re-established their presence on the boards. After getting thoroughly dominated on the glass throughout the series (a 120-94 disadvantage), Utah outrebounded LA 42-31 Sunday night. The Jazz outscored the Clippers 58-36 in the paint and 13-9 on second-chance points.
Utah was stronger with the ball on Sunday, committing only 13 turnovers (which led to only four Clippers points). On the other hand, the Jazz turned LA’s nine turnovers into 17 points.
Coach’s Quote of the Night
“Our team’s been doing this all season. It’s ironic—we hadn’t done it without Rudy and we hadn’t done it without Gordon, and those are the two guys who’ve been out. Hopefully Joe Ingles won’t go down.”
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
This was Utah’s first home playoff win since April 30, 2010. … Ingles set a team season high with 11 assists. This was the first time all season that a Jazz player recorded at least 10 assists … Danté Exum played in his first-ever playoff game. He was on the court for 12 minutes and made his only shot—a big 3-pointer over Raymond Felton as the shot clock expired near the end of the third quarter. … Blake Griffin (toe) and Austin Rivers (hamstring) were out for the Clippers. … Crawford picked up his fifth foul and went to the bench with 8:49 left in the game. He re-entered with 5:01 remaining but did not score another point.
The Jazz will return to Los Angeles for Game 5 against the Clippers on Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised on both TNT and ROOT SPORTS.