By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

6/16/21 Los Angeles Clippers vs Utah Jazz Round 2, Game 5

After defending their home court and tying up their second-round series 2-2, the Los Angeles Clippers would have to travel to Utah to complete has become the best of a three-game series. However, due to an apparent knee injury to Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers would have to play their next untold amount of game with Leonard. This would mean, the guys on the team would need to step up to fill in for Kawhi’s absence, as they have done missing players all season long.

Coming off his had his fourth career playoffs game with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists Kawhi Leonard and Paul George became the 5th duo since the 1976-77 NBA-ABA merger with 30 points each in back-to-back playoff games. With Leonard missed Game 5, the former NBA Finals MVP and Second Team All-Defensive player out, would leave a large part of the leadership and scoring burden to fall on fellow All-Star Paul George.

After falling short of their goals in last season’s playoffs, this game would present the often-denigrated Paul George an opportunity to silence some of his doubters. George would start the game off by shooting 4 for 6 for 10 points and grabbing 5 rebounds in that first quarter. George was complimented only by Marcus Morris Sr. 10 points on 4 for 7 shooting.

The Clippers would have to compete with the complete team effort from the Jazz. Though their star Donovan Mitchell appeared to hobbled, he received a lift from teammates Bojan Bogdanovic and the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson who scored 23 and 14 points respectively in the first half of the game. The two combined to shoot 11 for 18 from deep in that first half to give them a 65-60 lead going into the locker room.

By halftime, Paul George became the first player in franchise history to score 20+ points in 12 consecutive postseason games. He then finished the third quarter with his third-straight postseason game with at least 30 points, which is the longest such streak of his career. George would say “It was no secret. I knew I had to be big tonight and gotta be big going forward.”

Bojan Bogdanovic would lead the Jazz with 32 points on 9 for 17 shooting from behind the arc. He was assisted Donovan Mitchell’s 21 points, though Mitchell appeared to be laboring through most of the second half, which prompting him to say post-game, “It’s something I have to deal with. It (expletive) sucks. I ain’t got nothing else to say!”

Paul George becomes the first player in franchise history to have at least 35 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in a playoff game. The Clippers and the Jazz combined for an absurd 84 three-point shots in this Game 5 matchup as they shot 40% and 37% respectively.

The Clippers Marcus Morris Sr’s would score a playoff career-high 25 points tonight, while Reggie Jackson’s chipped in 22 points to compliment Paul George’s game-high 37 points and career-high 16 rebounds. Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue would say post-game “Every guy that played tonight contributed and that’s the team we have.” He would then praise his team’s Game 5 play by describing their play as “mentally tough. Mentally strong. We just keep fighting to the end.”

The Clippers would need to keep up the fight when they return home to Staples Center for a closeout game. With a win in Game 6, this would be their opportunity to move onto their first-ever conference championship.

6/18/21 Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers Round 2, Game 6

In-Game 6 of this series against the Utah Jazz, the Clippers would be without Kawhi Leonard for a second consecutive game. However, they would be playing in front of a full crowd at Staples Center for the first time all season, for the opportunity to move on to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. 

After a subpar game in Game 5, Donovan Mitchell opens Game 6 by shooting 6 for 11 from the field, for 16 points to carry the Jazz to an early lead in this game. In what would be their biggest game in franchise history, the Clippers would allow the Jazz to shot 66.7% from deep in that first quarter. Though second-year guard Terance Mann would shoot 4 for 5 from the field and 2 for 2 from behind the arc for a team-high 12 points to keep the Clippers in striking distance. 

By halftime, Jordan Clarkson would shoot 8 for 12 for 21 points to combine with Donovan Mitchell’s 8 for 14 from the field and 5 for 7 from three-point range for 22 points to outscore the Clippers by 22 points going into the locker room. Additionally, the Jazz shot a collective 58.7% from the field and 63.2% from behind the arc in contrast to the Clippers shooting 41.9% from the field and only 30% from deep. 

Multiple times during this season members of the Clippers have spoken in glowing fashion about the poise that Head Coach Ty Lue has displayed. Coming out of that halftime, down by 22 points they showed that they really believe in each other and the direction Coach Lue has them going in. With the team’s best player sidelined for an unknown number of games and at the franchise’s most critical moment, the team rallied behind a second-year player who turned in a game for the ages. 

When asked post-game what he said to the team at halftime, Coach Ty Lue responded by saying, “Just continue to keep trusting what we have been doing all series, all season long. I thought in the first half we took a lot of bad shots. We didn’t touch the paint and we took some bad shots. At halftime we just talk about when we get into the paint, we get any shot we want. We know Rudy is coming to help and guys are going to be open all around the floor. So don’t take it personally and don’t take the one-on-one battle. If you can’t get to the paint, swing it, slip out, let the next guy drive the basketball.”

Brooklyn native and Florida State University grad Terance Mann was called on to start in place of Kawhi Leonard and would erupt in the third quarter of this game. Mann shot 8 for 11 from the field and 4 for 6 from deep for 20 game-high 20 points in that quarter. He also became the only player in franchise history, since 1997, to score 20+ points in a single quarter of a playoff game. When asked if he saw the type of game coming he said confidently, “Yeah, I trust my work. When you trust in your work, you trust in yourself, you’re not surprised when any of this happens.”

The Jazz would attempt the have Rudy Gobert guard Mann in the corner while expecting him to collapse on any drive to the bucket, though Mann’s three-point barrage made this an impossible feat and would enable Mann to become the third player in the Franchise history to hit seven threes in a playoff game. This also led to the Clippers hitting at least 20 threes for the third time in the franchise’s playoff history. 

That historic third-quarter performance by Mann inspired his veteran teammates to close this game out in front of their fans at Staples Center. Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Patrick Beverley would combine for 32 of the 40 points the Clippers scored in that final quarter. This would be the third time in the last 25 years that the Clippers have come back to win a playoff game after trailing by at least 25 points. Additionally, the Clippers became the first team in NBA history to overcome multiple 0–2 deficits in a single playoff run.

When asked about them overcoming multiple 2-0 deficits Paul George would say, “T-Lue. T-Lue. Adjustments after adjustments. You know, got to give most of the credit to him and the guys just doing whatever it takes, willing game after game, just willing these wins out and just playing with straight toughness and trusting each other. I thought the second half tonight you saw the team trust one another, and that’s the reason why we were able to close the second round out.”

This run has been nothing less than spectacular for the Clippers. I’ve said multiple time this season Coach Ty Lue’s poise and demeanor has been a settling force for this team and now here they are four wins away from playing for an NBA Championship. I’d be interested in knowing how you feel about Ty Lue’s influence on this team, 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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