LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Johnson drove the lane and lifted in a shot at the buzzer, and the Utah Jazz overcame the loss of Rudy Gobert 17 seconds into the game to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 97-95 in their playoff opener on Saturday night.
Johnson had 21 points, including when he was left isolated against Jamal Crawford on the final play. He powered his way inside and lofted a shot over Crawford and DeAndre Jordan that bounced around the rim before falling in. A video review confirmed it was good.
Gobert sprained his left knee on the game’s first play when he banged knees with Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute, leaving the Jazz without their 7-foot-1 center who averaged 14.0 points and 12.8 rebounds during the regular season.
Utah steadied itself behind two veterans brought in to balance the inexperienced Jazz. Johnson came up big off the bench and George Hill added 16 points.
Gordon Hayward had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Utah.
Blake Griffin scored 26 points and Chris Paul added 25 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, whose seven-game winning streak ended with their first loss since March 26 against Sacramento.
A driving Paul banked in a floating shot with 13 seconds to go, tying the game at 95.
Making their first playoff appearance in five years, the Jazz outshot the Clippers and narrowly controlled the paint, owning a 42-40 edge.
Utah withstood Paul’s offensive outburst in the fourth after the Jazz led by eight on Hill’s 3-pointer. Paul rattled off 10 straight Los Angeles points, drawing the Clippers to 90-89 on a 3-pointer.
Hayward and Johnson scored, keeping the Jazz ahead 94-91. But Johnson lost the ball and Hill fouled Griffin, who made both free throws to get the Clippers to 94-93 with 23 seconds left.
After a timeout by the Jazz, Griffin fouled Derrick Favors, who missed the first and made the second after it hit the rim and went in for a 95-93 lead with 18 seconds left.
Gobert was setting a screen when he and Mbah a Moute made contact and Gobert fell to the court clutching his left leg.
He had to be helped off by teammates Boris Diaw and Hill. A team spokesman said X-rays were negative, and Gobert was taken from Staples Center to have a precautionary MRI.
The matchup between Gobert and Jordan was expected to be a key in the best-of-7 series. Jordan finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds and got called for a technical in the fourth with the Clippers down six.
Utah outscored the Clippers 16-10 to open the third before Crawford’s jumper put Los Angeles ahead 70-68. Hayward singlehandedly outscored the Clippers 6-0 to send the Jazz into the fourth leading 74-70.
Neither team led by more than six points in the first half. The Clippers were ahead by six when the Jazz outscored them 14-2 in the second quarter to take their own six-point lead. Griffin got stripped under the basket by Hayward, but he hit a 3-pointer and made a layup on the Clippers’ next two possessions to key a 14-8 spurt that ended with the half tied 52-all.
Jazz: The last time the teams met in the playoffs was a first-round series in 1996-97, won 3-0 by the Jazz. … Utah also won the teams’ other postseason series 3-2 in 1991-92, which was interrupted by the riots after the Rodney King verdict.
Clippers: Backup G Austin Rivers (strained left hamstring) did some shooting for the first time Saturday since his injury. He’s out for at least the first two games of the series. … Former Clipper Baron Davis shared hugs with the referees from the courtside seat.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at Staples Center.
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