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Crawford scores 27, Clippers maintain 3 1/2-game lead in Pacific with 102-87 win over Jazz

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Despite playing their 10th game in 16 nights, the Los Angeles Clippers were able to shrug off a sluggish start and find enough energy to pull away from the Jazz.

Jamal Crawford scored 27 points off the bench, Blake Griffin had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and the defending Pacific Division champions used a decisive third-quarter rally to beat Utah 102-87 Saturday night.

"We came out flat in the first half," centre DeAndre Jordan said. "But we get our energy from the crowd here. And once we got over that hump tonight, we were OK. Our defence kept the game close, and in the second half we got our legs back and had more of a feeling for the game."

Jordan maintained his aggressiveness and defensive intensity during the rest of his foul-plagued 35 minutes, finishing with 14 rebounds and 10 points.

"That's an area of growth, in my opinion," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Him and Blake — we noticed early in the year that if they got early fouls, they were more concerned about not fouling, which creates more trouble. But tonight, I think there were 4 or 5 minutes left in the game and somebody drove against D.J. Then D.J. jumps up, blocks the basket — and no foul because he got his hands up. That wouldn't have happened a month ago. That would have been a dunk by that guy. And that's terrific."

The Clippers are 19-7 since Dec. 14 and 11-4 since All-Star point guard Chris Paul separated his right shoulder. They still lead second-place Phoenix by 3 1/2 games in the division following the Suns' victory over Charlotte.

Enes Kanter led Utah with 23 points and 14 boards, while teammates Derrick Favours and Jeremy Evans sat out with injuries. Favours has inflammation in his right hip, and Evans has a bruised tailbone and right elbow.

The Jazz lost the second game of a back-to-back set for the 10th time in 13 tries this season, one night after holding an emotional halftime tribute to Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan in Salt Lake City, complete with a banner depicting his win total in 23 years with the club and appearances by Karl Malone and John Stockton.

The Clippers turned a three-point deficit into a 73-61 lead with an 18-3 run highlighted by Griffin's reverse alley-oop dunk off a lob from Crawford with 2:43 left in the third quarter.

"We got some stops, got some good ball pressure defensively and forced them to take some tough shots in the open court," Griffin said. "DeAndre, he does a lot for us — controlling the paint, rebounding, things like that. But I think it's kind of a team thing. And when everybody's on the same page like we were at the end of the third quarter, we're a much better team."

The Jazz got as close as 88-79 on a pair of free throws by Gordon Hayward with 6:10 to play.

"The end of the third quarter they did a good job finishing some plays, and we didn't really shoot the ball particularly well over that stretch," Utah's Richard Jefferson said. "Good teams end quarters well. They did that, which gave them some separation and some cushion, and we weren't able to overcome it."

Despite outshooting Utah 51.5 per cent to 41 per cent in the first half, the Clippers had to settle for a 42-all tie at the break after the lead changed hands nine times.

Rivers had to summon Ryan Hollins and Crawford off the bench earlier than he expected, after Jordan picked up his second foul with 8:11 left in the first quarter and shooting guard J.J. Redick got his second one just 64 seconds later. But the Clippers demonstrated again why they possess one of the deepest teams in the NBA as they shot 51.4 per cent from the field and held the Jazz to 35.8 per cent.

Alec Burks, the first player off the Jazz bench, missed seven of eight shots and finished with four points. Rudy Gobert, the second player off the bench, fouled out with 8:04 remaining and finished with five points in 18 minutes.

The Clippers won their eighth straight meeting with Utah, making it their longest winning streak against the Jazz since the franchises began competing against each other in 1974-75.

NOTES: Jordan entered Saturday leading the NBA in rebounding average (14.0) and field goal percentage (64.9). Only one player in the previous 40 seasons has finished first in both categories: Dwight Howard in 2009-10 with Orlando (13.2 rebounds, 61.2 per cent shooting). The only player prior to that to have accomplished the feat was Wilt Chamberlain, who did it eight times between 1960-61 and 1972-73. ... The Clippers are 14-0 when shooting at least 50 per cent, and 41-3 since the start of last season. ... The Clippers are 19-0 at home when leading after three quarters and 32-3 overall in those situations. ... Burks averaged 18.4 points over his previous eight games — the first four as a starter while Hayward was sidelined with a hip flexor.

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