LOS ANGELES (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points, Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 20 rebounds, and the Utah Jazz rolled past the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers 114-96 on Wednesday night for their ninth consecutive victory.
Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points for the NBA-leading Jazz, who improved to 24-5 with their 20th win in 21 games. After three tight quarters, Utah broke it open in the fourth to win this matchup of Western Conference powerhouses — although it wasn’t a proper showdown with the Clippers missing injured superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
With the 7-foot-1 Gobert scoring 17 points in the second half while playing a dominant game on both ends of the court, the Jazz beat the Clippers for the ninth time in the teams’ last 12 matchups.
“I think it really started from the defensive end, our physicality,” Gobert said. “They were really aggressive in the first half. They were just playing harder than us. Regardless of who we play, we can’t really let that happen if we’re going to be the team we want to be. In the second half, we became more aggressive and we got better shots.”
After a rough first half that didn’t resemble Utah’s impressive recent play, the Jazz opened up a tight game with a 14-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters, followed by a 16-3 run to put it away.
“(Gobert) was the aggressor on defense, on the boards, everywhere,” Mitchell said. “That’s something that really set the tone. He did that from the jump. That’s the Rudy we need every day, and he’s been doing that.”
Lou Williams scored 16 points and Reggie Jackson added 15 for the Clippers, whose four-game winning streak ended.
The Clippers were profoundly disadvantaged in this heavyweight matchup: Leonard missed his third straight game with a bruised leg, and George missed his seventh straight with an injured toe. Nicolas Batum also sat out with a concussion, leaving LA without three regular starters.
“I can’t fault our effort and our competing, (but) it’s just one of those games where they played well enough to beat us, especially in the fourth quarter when they got it going,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “That’s why they’re the best in the league defensively, because of the way they make you play.”
The Clips fell to 3-2 this season when playing without both Leonard and George.
The Jazz played without Mike Conley, who had hamstring tightness.
Jazz: Conley has missed six straight games. … Clarkson, the former Lakers guard, scored 11 points in the second half. He dropped 40 on the 76ers on Monday.
Clippers: Batum missed his second straight game after taking a shot to the head last week. … Patrick Beverley returned after missing Monday’s win over Miami to rest on the second date of a back-to-back set.
Despite their injury absences, the Clippers’ supporting cast made Utah uncomfortable on offense throughout the first half. Los Angeles took a 51-46 lead into the break while soundly outrebounding Utah, forcing poor shots and bothering its usually fluid ball movement.
Both teams credited Gobert with changing the game after halftime.
“Their guard play is pretty good in the pick-and-roll, so when you have a big like Rudy Gobert setting solid screens, it makes it hard to guard him,” said Amir Coffey, who scored 13 points for Los Angeles. “He does a good job finishing around the rim and cleaning up misses. Sometimes it’s just tough to handle what he can do.”
The teams meet again Friday at Staples Center.
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