Jamal Crawford, Cole Aldrich have big nights in Clippers’ win at Utah

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers

Jamal Crawford scored 30 points, grabbed five rebounds and doled out four assists; Cole Aldrich scored 21, grabbed 18 rebounds and made five steals; and Paul Pierce scored 18 points as the Clippers won 102-99 in overtime Friday night at Utah.

The Clippers (51-28) did not have the services of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Wes Johnson – all rested. With Austin Rivers sidelined with an ankle injury, that left them with nine players, and they all played.

Pablo Prigioni joined Crawford, Aldrich, Pierce and Luc Mbah a Moute in the starting lineup and scored 13 points while doling out seven assists and grabbing seven rebounds.

Gordon Hayward led Utah (39-40) with 24 points. This loss hurts the Jazz because they are in the eighth and final playoff spot, just one game ahead of Houston (38-41).

As for the Clippers, they have clinched the No. 4 spot in the West and will stay there. They are waiting to see whether they will play Portland  or Memphis in the first round. The No. 5 Trail Blazers (43-37) moved a half-game ahead of the No. 6 Grizzlies (42-37) with the Grizzlies’ loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Austin Rivers says comments in radio interview misconstrued

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


The subject line in the email sent by Fox Sports Radio read, “Austin Rivers says the Clippers have moved the ball better without Blake Griffin.”

The younger Rivers, a backup guard, did an interview this week with the Steve Gorman Sports show. He was asked by Jeffrey Gorman, “… You guys are humming without the great Blake Griffin. How does he come back and everything is seamless?”

Rivers’ response was emailed to Clippers beat writers.

“You’ve got to understand, because we haven’t played with Blake, our ball movement has been a lot better,” Austin Rivers said, according to the transcript. “I think we learned a mutual thing that’s like, ‘All right, listen Blake, since you’ve been out, we’ve learned to move the ball better, so when you come back, we’re still going to play like that. But now we have you back, we’re still going to play through you at the same time.’

“So I think we’ve both have learned things. There’s times when it’s obvious we need Blake, so I think it’s a learning experience for both of us. There’s no way we could be worse with Blake Griffin back on our team. It’s not possible. He’s one of the best players in the NBA, so we can’t wait to have him back.”

Rivers was rather stunned to find out that the station thought his comments controversial enough to send them out. He told reporters prior to Saturday’s game against the visiting Atlanta Hawks what he was trying to convey.

“I meant to say, like, we  have to move the ball better without Blake,” he said. “I mean, it’s like, common (sense). I thought people would be smart enough to know what that means. Blake’s not playing, obviously we have to move the ball. I said that in that interview as well, that we’re a better team with Blake. Without Blake, we have to move the ball better.”

Rivers offered an analogy.

“It’s like if Cleveland played without LeBron (James), they’d have to figure out a way to move the ball because their best player is not playing,” he said. “It’s common sense.”

Austin’s father, Clippers coach Doc Rivers, suggested that what his son said was misconstrued.

“No, I don’t think he meant to say that, the way that sounds,” Doc Rivers said. “The ball movement has been better, but the ball movement started moving right before Blake left. … Probably about two or three weeks before Blake got injured, our ball movement changed.

“Really, the second unit’s ball movement changed as well when we started playing Cole (Aldrich) and Pablo (Prigioni) as well. Our ball movement won’t change at all (upon Griffin’s return). I think, if anything, it may increase.”

Griffin (quad tendon, fractured hand) has not played since Dec. 25. He could be back around the middle of this month, or shortly thereafter.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 87-81 loss to the Nuggets

Clippers guard Chris Paul, left, reaches in for the ball against Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay on Wednesday night at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Chris Paul guards Emmanuel Mudiay of Denver during the Nuggets’ stunning 87-81 victory over the Clippers on Wednesday at Staples Center/AP photo by Alex Gallardo


– The Clippers shot 28.3 percent from 3-point range. That was not good. The worst part of it is that they took 46 3-point shots. That was more than half of the 85 shots taken overall by the Clippers, and a franchise high. Tough to win like that. Tough to score like that. Just think, the Clippers average 104.8 points on offense – seventh in the league. They scored 81 in this one. Bottom line is, losing to a team that is now just 23-35 on your home court is a bad loss for the Clippers (37-20), who are battling for position in the playoffs with just 25 regular-season games left. The Clippers are currently fourth in the West. They’d like to get to third so they wouldn’t have to face Golden State in the second round.

– Speaking of those long shots, Doc Rivers said he had the right guys shooting the 3s. They just didn’t fall, he said. J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford shot 6 of 12 and 3 of 7, respectively. Redick is shooting a league-best 48.1 percent from beyond the arc, but Crawford is shooting just 32.5 percent. Chris Paul was 3 of 8 and he’s shooting a very respectable 38.2 percent from distance. Wesley Johnson, however, was 1 of 7 and he’s one of the last ones who should continue shooting the bombs on an off night as he is shooting only 33.6 percent from 3-point range. Pablo Prigioni was 0 of 4 and Jeff Green and Paul Pierce were both 0 of 3 and Luc Mbah a Moute coming in at 0 of 2.

Chris Paul got a bit more banged up in this one. He had a tight calf and he took an elbow to his left foreman. “I’ll be all right,” he said, afterward, like he always does. He scored 17 points, doled out 10 assists, made four steals and committed two turnovers in just more than 35 minutes.

– Nice game by Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. He had 21 points on 10 of 15 shooting – there was a memorable monster dunk in there – in under 23 minutes. He had an assist and a steal, for good measure.

– The Clippers got within two points late. But they couldn’t get a stop. Trailing 80-78, Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay missed a layup with 3:23 to play. The Nuggets got one of their 14 offensive rebounds, as Nikola Jokic put it back in for an 82-78 lead. The Clippers got back within two on a 6-footer by Green. But Gary Harris buried a 30-foot 3-pointer for an 85-80 lead with 1:58 to go, and the Clippers could not recover, getting no closer than four points at 85-81 on a free throw by DeAndre Jordan with 59.7 seconds left. That was the Clippers’ only point in the last 2:26, when the aforementioned shot by Green was made.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 105-86 victory over the Spurs

Chris Paul, left, gets up a shot over San Antonio’s David West during the Clippers’ 105-86 victory over San Antonio on Thursday/AP photo by Mark J. Terrill


– The Clippers (36-18) entered this game without a victory over a truly elite team. They were a collective 0-4 against the top three teams in the West – Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. So to beat the Spurs by 19 – even if it was the first game right out of the All-Star break – was a big deal. Yes, the Spurs (45-9) were without Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. But the Clippers were minus Blake Griffin, Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni. That’s not to mention that Lance Stephenson was on his way to Memphis after being traded there for Jeff Green, who also was not available to the Clippers for this one.

Chris Paul has been a beast, and was again. He scored a game-high 28 points, doled out 12 assists, grabbed five rebounds, made a steal and blocked a shot in 37 hard minutes. He had just two of the team’s 18 turnovers. Paul shot 9 of 18 and made all seven of his free throws.

– With Rivers and Prigioni both out, Jamal Crawford played some backup point guard. The results were a mixed bag. He came through with six assists to go along with his 19 points on 7 of 15 shooting. But he committed seven turnovers in 30 minutes.

– When LaMarcus Aldridge (3 of 12) and Tim Duncan (1 of 6) shoot a combined 4 of 18, it’s going to be difficult for the Spurs to beat a good team. Part of that was Clippers defense, part of it was just poor shooting.

Cole Aldrich played 20 tough and successful minutes for the Clippers. The backup post scored eight points on 4 of 5 shooting, pulled down eight rebounds, doled out two assists and blocked three shots. Seriously, this young man plays hard. He doesn’t back down.

BONUS TAKE: How do you not acknowledge DeAndre Jordan? He scored just nine points. But he also grabbed 17 rebounds, made three steals and blocked two shots in 37 minutes.

Austin Rivers, after latest win: ‘Shout out to the second unit’

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers/photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


There was a lot of talk about what the second unit did for the Clippers (31-16)  in their 105-93 victory over the Lakers on Friday night at Staples Center.

Austin Rivers scored 17 points in 26-plus minutes on 8 of 14 shooting, Lance Stephenson scored 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting in 22 1/2 minutes. Jamal Crawford’s line was not quite as impressive, but he still scored 15 points on 5 of 13 from the field in 28 1/2 minutes. Stephenson also had five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block; Crawford had four assists.

Afterward, Rivers spoke in prideful tones about the reserves.

“Shout out to the second-unit,” he said. “The first unit has been pushing us and what we have done is not worry about our offense. We just focus on getting stops and when you do that, you just play free as a unit. Jamal (Crawford) and I are being aggressive and scoring. We are also playing defense – Pablo (Prigioni) and Cole (Aldrich) are doing a great job of that. Lance (Stephenson) did an unbelievable job tonight, so our second unit just has to keep it up and get better.”

J.J. Redick reminds us how well second unit has played of late

Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan drives to the basket against Los Angeles Clippers' Paul Pierce during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

DeMar DeRozan drives to the basket against the Clippers’ Paul Pierce in Sunday’s game at Toronto/AP photo by Frank Gunn


There was a lot of talk about how poorly the Clippers’ bench played during a 112-94 loss at Toronto on Sunday. Coach Doc Rivers said of his reserves, “They were awful.”

But starting shooting guard J.J. Redick was quick to remind reporters that the bench has been rather solid of late.

“It’s a team sport,” he said. “There are nights where our bench unit has been great and extended leads,  and times where we’ve gone into the fourth quarter up single digits and not had to play the fourth quarter, so they’ve done a great job for us lately and there are going to be nights like this. It just felt like one of those nights where none of them could really find that rhythm or fight to get that unit going.”

Lance Stephenson shot 4 of 4 and Austin Rivers shot 4 of 8. But Jamal Crawford was 1 of 6 from the field and Wesley Johnson was 2 of 7, all seven of his field-goal attempts coming from 3-point range.

The second unit also had nine of the team’s 13 turnovers, with Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni making three a piece. Prigioni only played a little over eight minutes.