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.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 99-79 victory over Timberwolves

The Clippers' Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, middle, splits the defense of Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins, left, and Ricky Rubio during Wednesday's game. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Luc Mbah a Moute of the Clippers, center, tries to drive through Andrew Wiggins (22) and Ricky Rubio of the Timberwolves during Wednesday’s game in Minnesota/AP photo by Ann Heisenfelt


– The Clippers continued their stingy ways on defense in this one. Not only did they hold the Timberwolves to 79 points, the Clippers held them to just 34.8-percent shooting. The Clippers have now given up an average of just 88.2 points over their past four games – all victories. They also helped harass Minnesota into 16 turnovers while committing just eight of their own.

– Speaking of defensive ferocity, the Clippers blocked nine shots. DeAndre Jordan had three blocks and Wes Johnson, Jeff Green and Cole Aldrich had two apiece. By contrast, the T’Wolves had one measly block. As for Aldrich, he is from Bloomington, Minn., so he was playing at home and he had family in the stands.

– This was the third game of Blake Griffin’s four-game suspension. He will sit out Thursday night’s game at Oklahoma City and will then be eligible to play Sunday when the Clippers host the Washington Wizards at 12:30 p.m. at Staples Center. The Clippers (47-27) are 30-14 without Griffin, who has not played since Christmas because of two injuries and now this suspension for punching a team equipment staffer in January.

– Johnson shot 3 of 6 for the Clippers, which means he has shot 13 of 20 (65 percent) over his past four games. For someone who has been so up and down with his shot this season, that’s a very good sign.

– The hard-playing Chris Paul didn’t shoot particularly well – he was 6 of 16 overall, 1 of 4 from 3-point range – but he still scored a game-high 20 points. More importantly, he doled out 16 assists and also tied DeAndre Jordan for team-high honors in rebounds with eight.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 114-90 victory over Celtics

DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers scores two of his 15 points on this dunk during the first half of the Clippers’ 114-90 victory over the Boston Celtics/AP photo by Mark J. Terrill


Doc Rivers and his players talked quite a bit about the defense the team played in this victory. The Celtics shot just 34.8 percent from the field and much of that was because of that defense. Boston’s Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 24 points, but he shot just 5 of 14 as 12 of his points came from the free-throw line.

– The starters did not have to play in the fourth quarter for the second consecutive game, thanks to a 22-point lead (92-70) after three quarters that quickly grew to 25 at the outset of the fourth. Rivers liked that. “It’s huge, it’s huge,” he said.

Paul Pierce was off to a fine start, scoring eight points on 4 of 6 shooting, when he went down with w right ankle sprain in the second quarter. Rivers said Pierce will be out for “a little bit. We don’t know how long yet.” Pierce also had three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

– The Clippers’ bench had a solid outing, scoring 67 of the team’s 114 points – more than half. Austin Rivers led the reserves – and the entire team – with 16 points. Jamal Crawford scored 15, Wes Johnson 11 and Jeff Green 10. That’s not to mention that Cole Aldrich had six points on 3 of 3 shooting and also pulled down seven rebounds in just under 14 minutes.

– By the time this night was over, it became apparent that there is a chance the Clippers will not be playing Memphis in the first round, as most are expecting. That’s because the Grizzlies lost at home to San Antonio and Portland defeated Sacramento. Memphis is in fifth-place in the Western Conference standings and would place the fourth-place Clippers if the standings don’t change. But the sixth-place Trail Blazers are now just 2 1/2 games behind the Grizzlies. Memphis has eight games remaining, Portland seven. If those two teams switch spots, the Clippers would play the Trail Blazers in the first round. There is little chance the Clippers won’t finish fourth.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 105-90 victory over Denver

Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers, right, shoots as Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic, of Bosnia, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 105-90.

Austin Rivers, right, of the Clippers tries to get a shot up over Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic during Sunday’s game at Staples Center/AP photo by Mark J. Terrill


– The top news out of this game is what took place before it started. That’s when the Clippers declared Blake Griffin healthy and ready to play, meaning he started his four-game suspension and now just has to sit out three more before he can return next Sunday when the Clippers host the Washington Wizards at 12:30 p.m. at Staples Center.

DeAndre Jordan had another ferocious showing. He scored a team-high 16 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked six shots in 29 minutes. “Yeah, he’s been terrific,” coach Doc Rivers said post-game. Denver coach Mike Malone called Jordan “one of the better rim protectors in the NBA.” Jordan did have five turnovers, which is rare.

Jeff Green had a nice game off the bench, scoring 13 points on 6 of 13 shooting. He also had six rebounds, two steals, a block and zero turnovers in 29 1/2 minutes.

– Then there was Wes Johnson. He has struggled with his shot, as we have recently noted. In a candid interview with this newspaper Saturday before practice, Johnson said it was something he wanted to shoot his way out of, and this was a good start. Johnson scored 13 points off the bench and made 5 of 6 from the field, 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

– Not that the Clippers (45-27) celebrated, but they did clinch a playoff berth with this win. Afterward, coach Rivers said no one on the team even realized it, and he liked that. Obviously, clinching a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season is a good thing. But it will only remain as such if the Clippers can find a way to get out of the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in franchise history. Right now, their first-round matchup is shaping up to be against the Memphis Grizzlies. The second round – the conference semifinals – would be against the defending-champion Golden State Warriors.

Wes Johnson trying to shoot his way out of struggles from field

Wesley Johnson

Wes Johnson/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


Wes Johnson has had good shooting games this season for the Clippers, but he’s had more poor ones. He’s shooting a career-low 39.5 percent overall, just 31.9 percent from 3-point range. That’s his lowest percentage from deep since shooting 31.4 percent – his worst – in 2011-12 with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Johnson spoke candidly about his struggles Saturday before practice.

“Obviously, you know you want to see your shots go in,” the 6-foot-7 guard-forward said. “It’s just been one of those things, they haven’t been falling. But when I get them, I’ll take them. So I just have to continue to shoot. Don’t know if they’ll go in unless I shoot it, so it’s one of those things I’ve gotta shoot my way out of.”

Johnson said he’s watched film to study his mechanics, and he’s imposed on teammates for their thoughts.

“I come to the bench and ask everybody, ask the players what they see, ‘Do I need to hold it more? Am I rushing it?’ ” he said. “I ask the coaches. So it’s one of those things I could break myself; I just want to see from everybody else what they see as well.”

Coach Doc Rivers hasn’t noticed anything mechanically wrong.

“No, he’s just not making them,” he said. “I don’t think he’s hesitating much, which I don’t want him to. I think at times, he probably is; anybody would. But we just keep telling hm to shoot it. I even told him in front of the team and a couple of other guys, ‘If I see you hesitating one time, I guarantee you come out.’ ”

Johnson is averaging 6.6 points and 20.3 points in 71 games, seven of them starts.

Doc Rivers said he wanted his team to drive more to the basket in Sunday’s loss at New Orleans

Wesley Johnson

Wes Johnson of the Clippers was 0 of 6 from 3-point range in Sunday’s loss at New Orleans/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


One might not think Clippers coach Doc Rivers tries to dissuade his team from taking too many 3-point shots, especially after the Clippers hoisted up 39 of them in Sunday’s 109-105 loss at New Orleans and made just 10 for 25.6 percent.

Judging by his reply when he was asked afterward about his team’s 16-point third quarter, he does.

“Yeah listen, we just couldn’t make a shot,” he said. “You know, they played pretty good D, but I thought we settled a lot tonight. You can see that we played yesterday at 7. … In the third quarter, I said ‘You guys, we played last night and we are getting open shots, we’re getting 3s. Can we please drive the basketball?’ And once we started doing that, the game changed for us. When you lost the night before and you’re trying to fight uphill, you don’t have a lot of energy left. And there’s no room for mistakes. So I was happy with the comeback, I just wasn’t happy with the results.”

The Clippers were down by 14 points at 102-88 with 2:17 left in the game and twice crawled within a point in the final 27 seconds.

The Clippers lost 113-102 a night earlier in Memphis.