GORDON Hayward scored 27 points and the Utah Jazz leaned on some clutch heroics from veterans like Joe Johnson and George Hill to fend off the Los Angeles Clippers, 96-92, and take a 3-2 series lead in their first round matchup of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) at the Staples Center.
Johnson started taking over late in the third and hit a dagger of a jumper in the closing seconds as the Jazz held on after blowing an 11-point fourth quarter lead.
Johnson led a 14-4 Utah run bridging the last two quarters to give the Jazz a 69-58 edge early in the fourth. But the Clippers stormed back behind Chris Paul and JJ Redick in an 11-0 counter to tie it up with 7:43 to go.
Hayward then sparked an 8-0 blitz to regain the lead for the Jazz, 77-69, midway through the quarter. But the Clippers refused to fold, with Paul again taking charge to get within two, 80-78, with 3:28 remaining.
Johnson and Rodney Hood knocked down a triple each but DeAndre Jordan kept the Clippers within five, 86-81, entering the final two minutes.
After a pair of free throws from Hayward, Redick got clipped on a three-point attempt and sank 2-of-3 charities then scored on the drive in the next possession to trim the gap to three, 88-85, with 1:05 to play.
Hayward and Paul traded free throws before Johnson’s stepback jumper gave the Jazz a five-point lead, 92-87, with 19 seconds remaining. Paul got fouled on the next play and drilled two more charities to keep the Clippers within reach.
Hill calmly sank two more free throws but Paul answered with a big triple for the Clippers to get within two, 94-92, with only five seconds left. Hill again drilled the all-important charities to seal the stunning win for the Jazz.
Hood was also an unlikely hero for Utah as he scored 16, including four triples, off the bench. Johnson finished with 14 markers, while Hill added 12.
Paul led the Clippers with 28 points, while Redick scored 14 of his 26 markers in the fourth quarter. Jordan finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Game 6 is on Friday at Utah.