LOS ANGELES – The young Utah Jazz have grown up quickly.
Gordon Hayward scored 26 points and the Jazz eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday with a 104-91 victory, closing out the first-round playoff series 4-3 to earn the franchise's first postseason victory since 2010.
"We've been through some pretty hard downs," said Hayward, a seventh-year veteran. "It definitely feels really good to go from 25 wins to where we were this year making the playoffs, winning a series."
George Hill and Derrick Favors added 17 points apiece for the Jazz in what proved to be the easiest game of a back-and-forth series. Utah won at Staples Center for the third time in the series.
Utah advanced to face top-seeded Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals, with Game 1 on Tuesday in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors swept Portland 4-0 and have been waiting since Wednesday to find out their next opponent.
DeAndre Jordan had 24 points and 17 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the series for Los Angeles. Jamal Crawford added 20 points.
Chris Paul had 13 points for the Clippers, who were sent packing in the first round for the second year in a row. Last season, they lost to Portland after Paul and Blake Griffin got injured.
This time, they didn't have Griffin again after he was lost in Game 3 because of a big-toe injury.
"It came down to today to keep us afloat, keep us alive," Paul said. "We're done."
In the most closely contested series of the first round — and the only one to go seven games — the Clippers came up strangely flat with their season on the line. J.J. Redick didn't hit his first three-pointer until the game's final 3 ½ minutes, drawing the Clippers within eight.
"Late, when we did start scoring, we couldn't get stops," Paul said.
Paul couldn't muster any of his fourth-quarter magic, either. He went scoreless with three assists in the quarter after tweaking an ankle in the third.
"We made it difficult for Chris Paul to get in the lane, get his little pullup jump shot," Hayward said. "Guys on the weak side were rotated, making them make the extra pass and make some other guys try to create for them."
In the fourth quarter, the Jazz was well in command, ahead by 17 points and hardly feeling pressured by foul trouble for Rudy Gobert and Favors, who both fouled out.
The first six games between the fourth-seeded Clippers and No. 5 Utah were decided by eight points or fewer with Los Angeles outscoring the Jazz 98.8 points to 98.0. The teams had identical 51-31 records in the regular season.
But this one was all Utah in the second half. The Jazz went on the 23-9 run out of halftime to build a 21-point lead.
"There's no excuses," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We lost."