LOS ANGELES (AP) — The addition of Jamal Crawford to an already dangerous roster of seasoned veterans and All-Stars is expected to play a huge part in the Los Angeles Clippers' goal of back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since the Larry Brown era.
Crawford got 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Clippers pull off a 96-94 preseason victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night after they trailed by 15 points.
Los Angeles built its margin to 83-72 on a layup and a pair of free throws by Eric Bledsoe with 6:45 to play. Utah tied it 92-all on a 3-pointer by Alec Burks that capped a 20-9 run with a minute remaining, but Crawford responded with a three-point play off a layup to put the Clippers ahead for good.
"We're lucky to have somebody like Jamal. He's a great closer," Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. "He knows how to play, he's a veteran and he's going to help us win a lot of games down the stretch this year. I don't think anybody can guard him in the open court. He's a threat, especially coming off screens when he's handling the ball."
Former Clipper Randy Foye's attempt at a tying layup was swatted out of bounds by Ryan Hollins with 5.2 seconds left, and Foye missed a 20-footer from the left of the key as time expired.
Blake Griffin scored 11 of his 23 points in the third quarter, and Jordan added 16 rebounds and 11 points for the Clippers. Chris Paul had six points and nine assists in his second game back after undergoing surgery on his right thumb in August.
Coach Vinny Del Negro rested all of his starters throughout the fourth quarter and didn't play Grant Hill and Lamar Odom at all in the Clippers' first game back from an eight-day, two-game trip to China.
"I know guys are still a little tired, and we've also got a lot of guys sick — some of them weren't even at the shootaround this morning. But you never want to use excuses like that," Griffin said. "We never want to come out flat like that, but I'm really proud of the way we fought back. Coach kind of got into us at halftime and we responded, which is great."
Foye, the first player off the Utah bench in his Staples Center homecoming, received a warm greeting from the crowd of 14,617 when he reported in late in the opening period and responded with a pair of 3-pointers less than 2 minutes apart to help Utah maintain a slim lead. He had 17 points for the Jazz, who were coming off back-to-back wins over the Lakers by a combined margin of 47.
"He's going to be a huge part of our team," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He's a great addition to what we're trying to do here. He's feeling a lot more comfortable with where he is in this system. I put him in a lot of bad situations tonight and put a lot of pressure on him. But we want him to get that experience now, so that we can all see how it's going to play out."