Clippers seek to silence Jazz, clinch No. 4 seed in West

The Los Angeles Clippers will look to secure the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference on Friday when they host the Utah Jazz.

The Clippers (51-29) can clinch that seed with one victory or one loss by the Dallas Mavericks (50-30) over the teams’ final two games of the regular season. Both teams are locked into the first-round matchup, with the home-court advantage still to be decided.

The Clippers hold the tiebreaker over the Mavericks after posting a 2-1 head-to-head record this season.

Los Angeles saw its four-game winning streak come to a halt with a 124-108 setback to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

Bones Hyland notched a career-high 37 points — highlighted by making six 3-pointers — to go along with nine assists in the loss. While Hyland went 15 of 29 from the floor and 6 of 12 from beyond the arc, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue lamented his team’s inability to close the game.

Los Angeles was on the wrong end of a 23-2 game-ending run.

“Down the stretch the game got away and we couldn’t make a shot,” Lue said. “I think the guys got tired.”

Brandon Boston Jr. added 23 points off the bench for Los Angeles, which rested forwards Paul George (left knee soreness) and Kawhi Leonard (right knee inflammation), guards James Harden (right foot inflammation) and Russell Westbrook (left hand contusion), and center Ivica Zubac (left ankle inflammation).

Leonard (23.7 points per game), George (22.8) and Harden (16.7) are the top point scorers for the Clippers.

As for the Jazz (30-55), they snapped a 13-game losing skid with a 124-121 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday. Luka Samanic scored a season-high 22 points and Keyonte George added 20 for Utah, which posted its first win since March 15.

And the Jazz did it despite having seven players sit out for a variety of reasons, including Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and John Collins.

“I’m really, really proud of the team,” Utah coach Will Hardy said after the Jazz overcame a season-high 42-point performance by Fred VanVleet. “They deserve that win.”

The win pushed Utah to a 21-20 record at the Delta Center, where fans continued to show up in droves despite the rough final months of the season. Prior to Thursday’s win, the Jazz only had three victories since trading away three key players at the draft deadline in February.

“I truly feel like we have the most loyal fans in the NBA. They’re informed. They care. They care about things that are real,” Hardy said. “Ultimately, our fan base wants a team that is successful, but they also want a team that plays really hard every night, competes, and plays as a group — that isn’t doing it for the wrong reasons, isn’t playing for individual statistics, and is trying to win every night. I feel really lucky to be a part of this.”

The Jazz and Clippers have played three times this season, with Utah winning the first one followed by two victories by Los Angeles. The most recent matchup was a 131-102 Clippers blowout last Friday. Terance Mann scored 19 points to pace eight Clippers in double figures in that rout.

“We took care of business, we didn’t play around,” George said at the time. “We just had force from the start of the game. We did a great job of just staying focused.”

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