SALT LAKE CITY • With the Los Angeles Clippers facing elimination from the National Basketball Association play-offs, Chris Paul took it upon himself to keep their season alive.
He worked his offensive magic throughout the second half, hitting timely baskets to put the Clippers ahead and counter efforts by the Utah Jazz to rally.
The veteran guard also kept his composure during timeouts late in the fourth quarter and offered a steadying voice when his team-mates needed one.
It added up to a 98-93 Game Six win on Friday. The Clippers survived for another game with their Western Conference first-round series tied at 3-3. Game Seven is scheduled for today in Los Angeles.
"We've been in these situations time and time again since we were kids," Paul said.
"We've been in that situation in high school basketball and college basketball.
SKILL AND WILL BY THE BUCKETLOAD
He is as competitive a human being I've ever seen around. When you put that with the talent and the will, that's why he has performances like this in big games.
DOC RIVERS, LA Clippers coach, on his game-changer Chris Paul.
"It's the same game, there's just a lot more people at the game. You just go out there and try to stay in the moment."
Paul scored 29 points to lead the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan added 13 points and 18 rebounds. Luc Mbah a Moute and Austin Rivers scored 13 points apiece and Jamal Crawford added 12 points.
Los Angeles won a post-season game while Blake Griffin was sidelined with injury for the first time after going 37 of 75 (49.3 per cent) from the floor.
Utah did not go down without a fight. They rallied from a double-digit deficit and closed the gap to 96-93 with 43.6 seconds remaining after Gordon Hayward took a steal in for a dunk and then buried a three-pointer off a Clippers turnover.
With Los Angeles clinging to a three-point lead, Joe Johnson had a chance to tie it for Utah but missed a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining. Paul hit two free throws with a second left to clinch the win.
"We had a great opportunity tonight to close it out and move to the next round," Utah guard George Hill said. "That's the hardest thing to do, close teams out, especially when they're desperate."
Hayward scored 31 points and Hill added 22 to lead Utah. Rudy Gobert chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds. Utah ultimately could not shoot better than 7-of-26 from three-point range.
The Jazz also struggled with Jordan. He proved much more effective at crashing the boards and getting second-chance points than in the previous two games. Jordan also clogged the interior enough to force Utah to the perimeter for contested shots.
"We got really good looks early in the game and didn't make them," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "I thought we got a little stagnant when they were scoring. I don't think we were forceful enough with our attack."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers credited Paul with being equal to the task when Los Angeles needed a lift at critical junctures late in the second half.
"He is as competitive a human being I've ever seen around," Rivers said. "When you put that with the talent and the will, that's why he has performances like this in big games."