SALT LAKE CITY — Sure they were mad at the refs, but the Utah Jazz were hardly thrilled with themselves either.
Following Friday’s 116-114 loss to the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Clippers, Jazz players bit their tongues when it came to talking about the referees, who made a critical no-call in the final seconds. But underneath it all they were angry with themselves for blowing a 19-point third quarter lead.
“He just played good (defense), that’s all I’ve got to say about it,” said guard Randy Foye, who drew — or created — contract with L.A.’s Matt Barnes on a 3-point shot at the buzzer.
Foye and Barnes did make contact as the clock ran out, but no call was made. Replays showed Foye likely initiated the contact but it also seemed to be the kind of play a superstar caliber player might’ve gotten.
Had Foye made the shot it would have given the Jazz (15-16) a win. It also would have put an end to L.A.’s 15-game winning streak. Instead, the Clippers (24-6) won and held on to the NBA’s best record.
“I felt as though I pump-faked. He knew I wanted to shoot the 3,” Foye said. “I felt the contact. I went straight up; it made me shoot the ball straight down. It was just a tough play.”
Foye, a former Clipper, scored a season-high 28 points while hitting 5-for-9 from behind the 3-point line. Teammate Al Jefferson added 22 points and eight rebounds and Gordon Hayward came off the bench to add 17 points.
The Clippers were led by Paul, who recorded a game-high 29 points, 13 of which came from the free throw line.
All five of L.A.’s starters scored in double figures.
Star forward Blake Griffin finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while center DeAndre Jordan scored 16 to go along with 10 boards.
In addition to the no-call on Foye, Jefferson was called for a reach-in foul on Paul with 3.4 seconds remaining and the score knotted at 114-all.
Paul made both free throws, which proved to be the difference in the game.
“The referee called a foul, brother,” Jefferson said. “There’s nothing I can say or do.”
Jefferson and his teammates chose their words carefully afterward, making sure to avoid a fine from the league. However, when it came to evaluating their own play in the second half, a couple of players spoke their minds.
The Jazz’s effort improved significantly from their lackluster performance in Wednesday’s loss to Golden State. But that didn’t mean much to point guard Jamaal Tinsley.
“Yeah, it was. But, you know, we didn’t do it for 48 minutes,” he said. “We played in spurts, that’s what happens when you play in spurts: you tend to lose games. That’s what we did tonight.”
When asked about the no-call on Foye’s last-second shot, Tinsley refused to blame anyone.
“It is what it is, you know,” he said. “(You) play (and) move on. We didn’t get it. It was a tough loss.”
The Clippers, who won their 16th straight game, trailed 74-55 with 8:08 left in the third. But they roared back, outscoring the Jazz 29-14 the rest of the quarter.
They went into the fourth trailing by only four points.
“We missed shots,” Tinsley said. “Their shots started going in, we missed shots. It was just momentum. Basketball’s nothing but runs.”
Asked if he thought the Clippers were indeed the NBA’s best team, Tinsley shrugged and said, “They’re good but they can be beaten.”
The Jazz will get that chance when the two teams match up again, this time in L.A.