Associated Press LOS ANGELES — Still weak and lacking his usual energy after a bout with food poisoning, Gordon Hayward leaned on his teammates. They came up big. Hayward scored 27 points, Utah controlled the paint and the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 96-92 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their […]
LOS ANGELES — Still weak and lacking his usual energy after a bout with food poisoning, Gordon Hayward leaned on his teammates. They came up big.
Hayward scored 27 points, Utah controlled the paint and the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 96-92 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“It was good I got some open looks early,” said Hayward, who missed most of Utah’s win in Game 4. “I was definitely tired out there. There was points in time where I didn’t have legs. I’m pretty tired and thankful we have a couple days off.”
The Jazz made five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including three by Rodney Hood, who finished with 16 points.
Joe Johnson hit two huge shots in the fourth, continuing his timely shooting against the Clippers.
“We are kind of growing up in the moment,” said Johnson, one of three veterans brought in to balance Utah’s inexperience. “These guys have never been in this situation. We have to go home with a business mindset and not be overconfident but confident enough. This has to be our Game 7 in Game 6.”
Chris Paul‘s 3-pointer drew the Clippers within two with five seconds left. After George Hill hit two free throws, Paul struggled getting the ball under control near the sideline and couldn’t do anything as time expired. He slammed the ball in frustration.
“They made the winning plays down the stretch, and therefore we lose,” Paul said.
Paul led the Clippers with 28 points and J.J. Redick added 26 with injured star Blake Griffin watching from the bench, his right foot encased in a black walking boot.
“Chris got tired early,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Without Blake in the first seven minutes, Chris is the only ballhandler on the floor, and that’s too hard. That hurt our offense, so we have to make an adjustment there.”
The Jazz can clinch the series with a victory in Game 6 on Friday night in Salt Lake City.
“We still haven’t done anything yet,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “We’re competing though, and I like that.”
The Clippers rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the fourth to tie the game. They made 12 of 15 free throws in the final period, but never managed to take the lead.
Paul and Hayward were called for double technical fouls with 40 seconds to go. Paul had already pushed Hayward in the back after they got tied up scrambling for a rebound that Hayward secured in front of Utah’s bench. Hayward made both shots for a 90-85 lead.
“That was huge,” Johnson said.
Neither team shot well, but the Jazz were better at most everything else. They owned a 34-28 edge in the paint, and the team that has done so has won each of the first five games in the best-of-seven series.
Utah outscored the Clippers on second-chance and fast-break baskets.
The Clippers clawed back with an 11-0 run in the fourth featuring five straight free throws by Redick and two consecutive 3-pointers from Paul that tied the game at 69-all.
The Jazz regrouped to take a 77-69 lead. They ran off eight straight, capped by Haywood’s 3-pointer after the Clippers’ defense shut down Hill inside and forced him to pass out to the perimeter with the shot clock winding down.
Jazz: Neither team has won by more than eight points so far in the series.
Clippers: Paul finished with nine assists, the first time in five games he hasn’t had at least 10. … Griffin’s injured big right toe needs further evaluation before it’s decided whether he’ll require surgery. … G Austin Rivers played 17 minutes in his return from a strained left hamstring. He was 0 of 4 and had two points. … They fell to 1-11 all-time in Game 5 of a playoff series that was tied 2-2.
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