Clippers can close out the series against the Jazz on Friday
June 17, 2021
Playing without their best player, Kawhi Leonard, the Los Angeles Clippers were able to go into Utah and beat the Jazz 119-111 last Wednesday. The Clippers played one of their best games of the year behind a 37 point, 16 rebound and five assists effort by their other superstar, Paul George.
After having been run out of the playoffs last year in the bubble by Denver, the Clippers have been carrying that monkey on their back. With a Game 6 win Friday at home at a full capacity Staples Center the Clippers will advance to face the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. Apparently, the Clippers like to do things the hard way in the playoffs. They were down 2-0 to the Jazz before winning three games in a row and they were down 2-0 to Dallas in the first round.
George had help against Utah. Marcus Morris Sr. had 25 points and Reggie Jackson scored 22 points. In the fourth quarter Jackson hit several key shots to help preserve the victory. Also playing key roles coming of the bench were Patrick Beverly's defense on Utah's superstar Donovan Mitchell. Luke Kennard 3-point shooting and Nicolas Batum's smart overall game. The play of Terance Mann has also been huge in the playoffs.
The Clippers have found a winning formula against the Jazz. Without Mike Conley Jr. to facilitate their offense, Utah has become predictable and reliant upon Donovan Mitchell to do it all. Los Angeles continued to blitz Mitchell to force the Jazz to find another facilitator. Before the game, Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue stressed the importance of limiting Mitchell's single coverage, whether switching or fighting over screens, to limit swing passes to open Jazz shooters.
With the joy of going up three games to two in the series, the Clippers' frustrations and fears may be more significant. With 5:25 left to play in Game 4 at the Staples Center last Monday, Jazz forward Joe Ingles bumped Leonard's right knee. Leonard walked off the court, clutching his right knee before returning and missing a pair of free throws. It is feared that Leonard may have suffered a torn ACL, and the Clippers will be forced to play without the All-NBA First Teamer.
These playoffs have become a war of attrition, and Game 5 may be what the Clippers needed to give them confidence to win Game 6 and advance to the conference finals.
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