By Cameron Buford,whatsgoodinsports.com

6/8/21 Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers Round 2, Game 1

To progress past their Round 2 Series, the Clippers would need the entire team effort as they got from the squad to dispatch the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. Racking up assists, hitting their threes, and playing consistent defense were key in that game. However, the Jazz will be coming with more than just one player to attack them. 

This Jazz team boasts the league’s best record of the regular season. Though they have missed their point guard for several games this season, their budding Superstar Donovan Mitchell is aided by the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert and the league’s Sixth man of the Year in Jordan Clarkson. The Clippers would be traveling to Utah to take on the #1 seed in the Western Conference.

In the initial game of the second round, the Clippers would take an early lead on the Jazz. As the Jazz shot 5-28 from the field in that initial quarter aiding the Clippers to a 25-18 lead. The Clipper would take a 13-point lead into halftime behind Luke Kennards 4-5 shooting from the floor and 3-4 from behind the arc, as Donovan would finish the half with 13 points on 5 of 14 from the floor. 

Though Kawhi and Paul George would finish Game 1 with 43 total points, however, Donavan Mitchell would finish the game with 45 points on 16-30 shooting. Mitchell’s teammates Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic would combine to shoot 37.5% from the floor and 45% from deep. This would aid the Jazz in outscoring the Clippers 59-65 in the second half.

The Clippers had a small chance to win this game, although a squandered possession in the final seconds of the game cost them an opportunity to get up a quality, game-tying shot off. However, if not for a few minor in-game mistakes this should have given them the confidence they can compete with the team with the best record in the league. 

Post-Game Clippers Head Coach would address that why not he chose not to call a timeout in the final moments of the game, “I didn’t want them to take Gobert out of the game or have them switch the guys in or talk about as a team if they wanted to foul or not, but I just thought getting a stop and getting down on a break with Gobert on the floor was going to generate an open three, but he did a good job of closing out to the shooter. I have to watch it but that’s the best time to try to get a three especially when a team doesn’t know if they are going to foul or what they are going to do coming down in transition.”

6/10/21 Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers Round 2, Game 2

Having already won Game 1, the Utah Jazz were looking to control this series by winning Game 2 of this series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Before the game began Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder and Team Owner Ryan Smith presented center Rudy Gobert with his third Defensive Player of the Year Award, in four years, before tipoff. However, this game would become another game dominated by Jazz Guard Donovan Mitchell.  

Mitchell came into this game shooting 22-of-32 in the previous four quarters for 59 points coming into Game 2. Well, he didn’t slow down in this game, as he would go for 37 points in Game 2. As if that wasn’t enough, Jordan Clarkson would chip in 24 points after shooting 6-9 from behind the arc. Additionally, for the Jazz, Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic also combine for 35 points on 12-18 shots from the floor and 7-12 from three-point range.

Bogdanovic probably did and equally, good job frustrating Kawhi Leonard as best one can on the defensive side of the ball. Rudy Gobert, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, also did his part by controlling the paint as he pulled down a Career-high 20 rebounds and pitch in with 13 points to help the Jazz go up 2-0 in this series. 

Paul George would lead the Clippers with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists in that Game 2. Kawhi Leonard would pitch in 21 on the night, though Reggie Jackson’s 27 points would give the Clippers a 101-99 lead late in the 4th quarter. Nevertheless, the Clippers would then miss their next nine field goals over the next 5 minutes of the game. 

In his post-game press conference, Clippers Head Coach Ty said post-game about what he thought contributed to Game 2 loss, “Just the first half. You can’t dig yourself a hole like that against a good team and then you have to end and all your energy trying to get back in the game and you don’t have enough to finish. You just can’t dig holes like that especially on the road and playing from behind like that, and we talked about getting off to good starts. Once again Donovan Mitchell got the most of a great start and they just kind of took off from there.”

6/12/21 Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers Round 2, Game 3

Coming into Game 3 against the Utah Jazz the Clippers find themselves down 0-2 once again. For them to achieve their goals this season, they would need to do what no team in NBA history has done to this point. Which is to come back from a 2-0 series deficit multiple times in one season. 

One would think, with them being down 0-2 presents many challenges for the Clippers, one would also expect them to come into this critical game with an adequate sense of urgency. Though the Clippers had yet another ominous start in this game. As Bogdanovic scores the initial basket of the game, then Ingles makes a three-pointer before Kawhi turns the ball over then he hits his second shot after a missed shot from Paul George. Ty Lue jumps off the bench to call his first timeout minutes into the game. 

Whether is the sole reason for the Clippers Run, the Clippers went on a 17- 10 run before the Jazz called a timeout. As Terance Mann entered the game who was just “out of the rotation” a couple of nights ago. Mann’s defense and energy complimented Paul George so well that he finished and who finished the second quarter with a team-high 20 points in this half. 

Paul George would say post-game about Mann, “He steps in and he’s a ballplayer. A kid that you can that can do anything and everything that you ask of him on the floor. Again, huge luxury to have a young guy that is just ready at all times. He’s been great for us!” Head Coach Ty Lue would also say about Terance Mann, “just his energy, flying around, being able to guard multiple positions, rebounding the basketball, attacking, and just his energy I thought was great. The fans love him. They love when he gets on the floor. He feeds off the crowd. So, we needed that lift today and he was great for us.”

By halftime, Paul George would pass, legendary Clippers guard Jamal Crawford for sole possession of third place on the team’s all-time postseason three-pointers made list. Where George owned the first half of the game Kawhi Leonard would own the second half of the game. As he scored a team-high 22 points, with 5 rebounds and 3 assists to close the game out. 

This would be Kawhi Leonard’s fourth career postseason game with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Three of these four games have come as a member of the Clippers. He finished Game 3 with a game-high 34 points after being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team. 

The Clippers would grab two of their four steals early in the 4th quarter to maintain their double-digit lead. As Kawhi and George would combine for 65 points in Game 3 against the Jazz, this would be the first time they would score 30 points in the same playoff game. Additionally, they would get support from Nic Batum’s timely 17 points and 7 assists along with Reggie Jackson’s 17 points and 3 assists in this game leading to their 26-point win and first win of the series.

6/14/21 Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers Round 2, Game 4

To move on to the next round the Clippers would need to become the first team in NBA history to lose the first two games of consecutive series to win a championship. at home and come back to win a postseason series. Oddly enough, they would also have to become the first team to win a game on their home court in this first-round series.

Similar to a counter puncher, the Clippers have allowed their opponents to strike first before they respond accordingly. When asked if he’s changed his coaching style, considering they appear to play best that way Clippers’ HC Ty Lue said this, “It hasn’t been different. You don’t want to be the counter puncher; you want to be the aggressor. First two series, we came out, got down 2-0 and our backs were against the wall and we have to perform at a high level. We’ve done that. It’s not something you want to get used to, digging yourselves holes like this. But give Utah credit. They won two games on their home floor. We didn’t play well. We understand that. We still had opportunities to win both of those games.”

In front of a raucous crowd and the basketball world watching, the Clippers opened up Game 4 with a game-high 12 points from Kawhi Leonard’s 4 for 9 shooting, coupled with 11 points from Marcus Morris Sr. who shot 3 for 3 from behind the arc to give the Clippers fans a lot to cheer about. 

After the Jazz was held to 13 points in that initial quarter, Donovan Mitchell was eager to leave his imprint on the game as he scored 17 points, on 6 for 14 shooting, in that second quarter. 

As the Clippers pushed their lead up to 29 points in the third quarter, behind Kawhi Leonard’s 27 points and Paul George’s 22 points they are just the third duo in NBA history to each score 20+ points in their team’s first 11 games of the postseason. 

The Clippers duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would finish Game 4 with 31 points apiece, leading their team to consecutive wins, while tying this series up 2-2. Which subsequently increases the importance of Game 5 in Utah. Additionally, they become the 5th duo since the 1976-77 NBA-ABA merger with 30 points each in back-to-back playoff games.

Post-Game I asked Kawhi about his comparison to them being similar to a counter puncher, “It’s a competition. You know, somebody got to win the game and we got to go out with a mindset trying to win. You know, these guys are out there, play hard, play smart and shoot the ball with confidence and see what the results are at the end of the game.”

In the words of Kawhi Leonard, “we showed character, we showed poise when we went down 2-0 going on the road.” Although, the Clippers will likely be without Kawhi in Game 5 of this series against Utah… they will have to rely on the Coaching of Ty Lue and the play of Reggie Jackson, Nic Batum, and Rajon Rondo to keep them in this series until Kawhi is cleared to return to game time action.

I like NBA fans from around the globe will be eager to see if Paul George can put this team on his back and carry them to a win on the road in Utah and simultaneously erase any slander that he’s dealt with since anointing himself as “Playoff P.” Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport to let me know what you think of this recent news and its impact on this team. Also, forward any suggestions on what additional topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to info@whatsgoodinsports.com

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