The Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 105-98 on Sunday evening, putting their series at two games a piece as a result.
Following a game-winning basket he hit at the end of game four, it was Joe Johnson who once again had the Clippers taking notice. Coming off the bench, Johnson notched a team-high 28 points to go along with his five rebounds and assists. Rodney Hood added in 18 points, while Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert tallied 17 and 15 points, respectively.
The Clippers had entered the fourth and final period with a modest three-point lead, but that would soon vanish at the hands of Johnson and the emerging Utah Jazz. Following Gordon Hayward exiting the game with food poisoning at the 9:10 mark in the fourth quarter, it was Johnson who took over.The score was 84-79 Clippers, but the Jazz would soon benefit from a 25-11 scoring run during the final 6:57 of play, including a crucial pull-up jumper that gave Utah a one-point lead with just 3:55 remaining. The Clippers would never again taste a lead, as Johnson, himself, would go on to outscore the Clippers 13-11 during the final seven minutes of the contest.
"Especially because we lost the first one (Game 3) at home. But we found a way to win tonight, and now we have to go to Los Angeles, in front of their home crowd and find a way to win another one."
Hood would connect on nine-foot jumper to give the Jazz a 99-92 advantage, just as he displayed his trademark "shimmy."
"I guess I like to shimmy when I hit shots on the left wing," Hood stated in that same Tony Jones report. "I knew that I had to step up and make a play out there. They were doubling Joe, and they left me wide open. I had missed a couple of shots that I could've made. Joe trusted me to shoot it, and I just let it ride."
The game actually brought the Jazz a mixture of emotions. Just a few hours prior to tip-off, they received notice that their center, Rudy Gobert would play in game four after suffering a knee hyperextension and bone bruise just 17 seconds into game 1.
The Jazz, however, were forced to close out the game without one of their leaders, as Gordon Hayward had to leave the game, suffering from food poisoning.
As for the Los Angeles Clippers, their effort was led by guard Chris Paul, who finished just a rebound shy of recording a triple-double with 27 points and 12 assists. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to add in 25, while J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan would both finish with 12 points each.
The Clippers and Jazz will now return to Los Angeles for game five on Tuesday. The Clippers will hope to benefit after regaining home court advantage by taking at least one game in Utah. The Clippers, however, will still be without the services of Blake Griffin, whose season ended prematurely after injuring the plantar plate of his right big toe early in game three.
Griffin did offer words of encouragement to his Clippers prior to game four. As to what Griffin told his teammates prior to Sunday's game.
"For us to continue on our journey, man," DeAndre Jordan told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times."He obviously feels bad that he's out, but it's not his fault. And we told him that. But he wants us to continue to play, man, as if he was on the floor."
[Featured Image by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]