It’s ok to breathe now.
After a second half full of big runs, huge momentum swings and clutch late-game shooting, the Utah Jazz escaped Los Angeles with a 96-92 win—and now they’ll return home with a 3-2 series lead and the chance to close out the Clippers Friday night in Salt Lake City.
Joe Johnson once again torched the Clippers in the fourth quarter—this time with a step-back dagger with 19.2 seconds left—while Gordon Hayward and George Hill combined to shoot 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to seal Utah’s victory.
“We can’t be overconfident,” Johnson said after the game. “We know this is a team with its back against the wall, and they’re gonna give us their best shot in our building, so we’ve got to take care of our home court.”
Hayward led the way with 27 points, while Rudy Gobert finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and two blocks. Most importantly, Hayward (41 minutes) and Gobert (36 minutes) were back to their full allotment of playing time after being hampered by illness and injury earlier in the series.
Chris Paul was outstanding once again, leading all scorers with 28 points in the loss. Paul pulled up and drilled a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to cut Utah’s lead to two before Hill iced the game with two free throws.
J.J. Redick broke out of a series-long funk to score 26 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter to prevent the Jazz from pulling away.
After playing only nine minutes during Game 4 because of food poisoning, Hayward bounced back with 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting (including 4-for-8 from 3-point range). He added eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, and he was a perfect 5-for-5 from the line. Hayward got the Jazz going with three 3-pointers in the first quarter, but he saved his best for last with a handful of big plays in the fourth—the most important two being a jumper that snapped LA’s 11-0 run and then an offensive rebound that led to a three by Johnson with 2:59 remaining. Hayward also sank two big free throws with under a minute left that pushed Utah’s lead to five.
After falling behind 7-0 right off the bat, the Jazz answered with an 11-0 run. Hayward drilled two 3-pointers, and he also got into the lane and dished to Gobert for a two-handed dunk. Boris Diaw added a layup during that stretch.
The Jazz closed the first half on a 8-1 run. Rodney Hood grabbed a loose ball and took it all the way for a transition jam, and then he hit nothing but net on a corner three on Utah’s next possession. Hill capped Utah’s first-half scoring with a 3-pointer from the wing as the Jazz took a 46-43 lead into the break.
Both teams slogged through a third-quarter brick fest (they combined to score two points over a five-minute stretch) before the Jazz made a few shots. Derrick Favors threw down a dunk, and then Johnson isolated against DeAndre Jordan and knocked down an 18-foot fadeaway. After two LA free throws, Johnson canned a 3-pointer from the wing. With the clock winding down, Hayward raced to the rack and threw down a transition dunk that just beat the buzzer and gave Utah a 64-58 lead heading into the final period.
Hood sank a three to give the Jazz their biggest lead of the game (69-58) with 10:23 remaining, but the Clippers fought back with a quick 11-0 run to tie it up. Redick made five straight free throws (the first three coming after Raul Neto fouled him on a 3-point attempt) and then Paul canned two straight threes to even the score. Hayward responded with a jumper and then, after Redick missed a wide-open three, Hood drilled a triple for the Jazz. Hayward just beat the shot-clock buzzer with a rainbow three that pushed Utah’s lead back to eight with 6:12 left.
The teams exchanged buckets down the stretch. Jordan pumped up the crowd with an alley-oop dunk (from Paul, of course), but Joe Ingles dished to Gobert on a pick-and-roll for a dunk that silenced the crowd. Redick drilled an off-balance three to pull LA within two, but, after a missed 3-pointer by Hill, Hayward rose up and tipped the offensive rebound out to Johnson for a wide-open three. Another three by Hood and a jumper by Johnson gave Utah a five-point lead with 19.2 seconds left.
Utah got a huge boost from its reserves with a 36-16 edge in bench points. Most of that punch came from Hood (16 points) and Johnson (14 points). Favors scored four points in 12 minutes. LA’s Austin Rivers (hamstring) returned to action after missing the first four games of the series, but he was ineffective at best, scoring only two points in 18 minutes. Jamal Crawford, who dropped 25 points on the Jazz in Game 4, managed only four points on 2-for-8 shooting in Game 5. As a group, LA’s bench shot 22.7 percent (5-for-22) from the field.
The Jazz ran hot and cold from 3-point range, but they kept on shooting. Overall, they shot 13-for-36 (36.1 percent) from deep. The Jazz had a five-point cushion early in the third quarter but missed chance after chance after chance to extend that lead—they shot 1-for-9 from 3-point range over a span of seven minutes (and five of those attempt were completely uncontested). In the fourth quarter, though, Utah shot 5-for-9 from beyond the arc. Hood went 3-for-5 from deep in the final period.
That’s how many ponts each team has scored during this ultra-tight series. That’s right, after five games it’s Jazz 495, Clippers 495. The largest margin of victory has been eight (LA over Utah 99-91 in Game 2), while Utah has won by margins of two, four and seven.
Coach’s Quote of the Night
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming off the bench who’ve been starters. For me, I’m not really differentiating who’s coming off the bench and who’s starting the game … I think that’s one of the good things about this group—the guys don’t care that much whether they’re starting or not. Everybody’s behind each other.”
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
Throughout NBA playoff history, the team that wins Game 5 when the series is tied 2-2 has gone on to win the series 82 percent of the time. … Hill finished with 12 points and a team-high seven assists for the Jazz. … Diaw scored 10 points and made two 3-pointers in 14 minutes. … Jordan registered a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) in the loss. … Blake Griffin (toe) was out for LA. … Hayward and Paul picked up double technicals with 40.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter. … The Jazz outrebounded the Clippers 43-34 and outscored them in the paint 34-28.
The Jazz will return home to host the Clippers for Game 6 on Friday night. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised on both ESPN and ROOT SPORTS.