Paul George, Terance Mann along with the Los Angeles Clippers have learned to flourish under hardship.
Instead of being rattled, the Clippers rallied, posting the greatest comeback victory by a group at a series-clinching triumph over the last 25 seasons and progressing to a conference final for the first time in the franchise’s 51-year history.
Mann scored 25 of his career-high 39 points in the second half as the Clippers posted a 131-119 victory to eliminate the Jazz.
The Clippers are the first team in NBA history to rally from a pair of 2-0 series shortages in the exact same postseason. They needed to do this time with no All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who was sidelined with a sprained right knee for the final two matches.
“They’ve been hungry, starved for success. They have had a lot of great teams and just caught lots of bad breaks. We all know when Kawhi went down, probably thinking the same thing over and over again,” trainer Tyronn Lue said. “Our staff, I just tell you, they simply don’t quit. It’s a total team effort and we are all attempting to win our team is prepared to do whatever it takes to win.”
The fourth-seeded Clippers will confront second-seeded Phoenix in the Western Conference finals. Game 1 is Sunday in Phoenix. Los Angeles won among the three matches in the regular season.
The close-out success was seen by 17,105 at Staples Center, marking the first time in 15 months that the Clippers had played before a full house after California eased COVID-19 safety restrictions on Tuesday.
“You felt that the monkey off of their Clippers’ back concerning getting out of the second round,” said George, who had 28 points. “It was just a special night. You know, you believed it, the cheers, the excitement.
“The playoffs are about grit. It is about fighting. It’s about whatever it takestime after time, I think we have shown that.”
Mann — that had 25 points in the first five games of the show — helped deliver the Clippers back together with 20 points in the next quarter. Utah had a 94-91 lead going into the final 12 minutes, but Jackson gave the Clippers their first lead since early in the second quarter when his layup made it 96-95 with 10:36 remaining.
Mann was 15 of 21 from the field and also became only the third player in franchise history to create at least seven 3s in a postseason game.
“You saw a full total game from a second-year participant,” explained George of Mann. “I mean, you saw him stretch the ground. You saw him rebound, muscle his way into the basket. You simply saw so many flashes of a lot of different things. He did it in the most crucial part of the game.”
The closest the Jazz would get then was six.
Donovan Mitchell headed top-seeded Utah with 39 points. It’s the second time in franchise history that the Jazz have blown a 25-point lead in a postseason game.
Royce O’Neale additional 21 for the Jazz. They had the NBA’s top regular-season album but dropped four straight for the first time all year.
“We turned the ball over a whole lot. We did not execute defensively. We did not get back and allow their men do whatever they want,” said Mitchell, who had seven matches in the playoffs with 30 or more things.
Mitchell opened the second half with a 33-foot, step back 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 75-50 guide 24 minutes into the third quarter. It had been 88-67 with 6:37 remaining when LA fought its way back by going on a 21-2 run to get inside a basket with 1:42 remaining with 10 points from Mann along with Jackson scoring nine.
“When Mitchell hit that 3-pointer, I was thinking that we didn’t want to go home,” Mann explained. “I had a whole lot to do. They left me open and I hit my shots. The crime will look after itself if you are confident on your game”
A dunk by O’Neale and Mitchell’s set of free throws forced Utah’s lead back up to six, but Jackson’s 3-pointer’s with 11.1 seconds remaining cut the edge in half heading into the fourth quarter.
The Jazz went on a 21-2 run that included 17 straight points by Jordan Clarkson, including a set of 3-pointers.
“It’s hard, particularly when we have the type of guide we’d going into the second half to see the match finish that way and the season end that way,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “I am incredibly proud of the group. When we finish on a game like this, it is hard to reflect exactly what I think was a high level performances from the playoffs, what Donovan managed to perform, a lot of the individual things which our men did.”
The Clippers were 30 of 42 in the field from the third and fourth quarters, such as 14 of 19 from beyond the arc as they outscored the Jazz 81-47. Reggie Jackson scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half.
Utah was 12 of 19 on 3-pointers at the first half, but 9 of 25 in the second.
Utah guard Mike Conley was back in the lineup after missing five games because of a ideal hamstring strain. He played 26 minutes and had five points and three assists.
“I did not know whether it was going to be the final match or not. So I sort of had to try and proceed as best I can. Clearly I could not move as great,” he said.
… …. It’s the fourth time this postseason he has 12 or more in the first 12 minutes.
… Jackson had a season-high 10 aids