LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – History is complete. The Los Angeles Clippers battled back in another epic comeback Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center against the Utah Jazz and advanced to the franchise’s first-ever Western Conference Finals appearance in 50 years.
After being down 25 points midway through the third quarter, the Clippers on the back of unsung hero Terance Mann turned around one of the largest postseason comebacks in history and closed out the series against the Jazz with a 131-119 win in Game 6.
Without superstar Kawhi Leonard for the second straight game this series, Mann stepped up huge in his absence as the second-year player out of Florida State dropped a career-high 39 points. Going 15 of 21 from the field, including 7 of 10 from beyond the arc, Mann completed play after play as he willed his team to a historic victory.
The outburst from the up-and-coming star provided the spark needed for a Clippers team who must figure out a way to fill the void left by their superstar player moving forward.
Despite the major accomplishment for the franchise, Mann said he understands that winning a second-round playoff series was not at all the goal of the team when the season started.
“Yeah, I trust my work. When you trust in your work, you trust yourself, then you’re not surprised when any of this happens,” Mann said. “Like I said before, just play my game, shoot the open shots and get in transition and get the easy ones and play defense. That’s what I do. That’s what I get paid to do.”
Mann wasn’t the only Clipper with an exceptional night. Teammates Paul George and Reggie Jackson also continued to be money down the stretch. George ended his night with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. George has scored over 20 points in every single game this postseason as he has averaged 26 points per game in 13 playoff games so far.
“It’s great. This was my first time experiencing a crowd like this since I’ve been a Clipper,” George said. “Just the whole night was special to be able to be in this arena and to feel that playoff atmosphere in front of my hometown, my friends, my family. So many important people in my life are in this building, and so it was just a special night, a special night. You know you felt it, the cheers, the excitement. You know you felt the monkey off of the Clippers’ back in terms of getting out of the second round.”
Jackson completed the night with 27 points and 10 assists. Jackson made 14 of his 27 points in the third quarter alone, which helped erased the Utah deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
For Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, his team’s ability to fight through adversity and compete no matter what the situation looks like continues to be their biggest strength.
“Our team, I just tell you, they just don’t quit. They keep fighting and competing and I think our fans see that this year,” Lue said. “We never gave in, never pointed a finger. Never pointed the blame on someone else. We looked in the mirror and we owned it and moved on. It was a total team effort all season long, all playoffs long. It’s a total team effort and we are all trying to win and our team is willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
After a close first quarter saw the Clippers trail by only a bucket, Utah guard Jordan Clarkson turned up the pressure in the second period. Clarkson stole the show in the second quarter as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award winner dropped all 21 of his points in the frame.
The barrage from Clarkson appeared to give Utah a comfortable lead as the half approached, putting the Clippers in a hole. At that point, Utah looked poised to force a game seven at home.
But as the third quarter began to reach the midway point, still trailing by 21 points, the Clippers started to find their stride on both sides of the ball. Playing harassing defense and creating wide-open looks on the offensive side, Utah’s advantage began to shrink.
Heading into the fourth quarter and down by three points, the momentum, and energy in the building swung in favor of the Clippers as their comeback looked all but complete. History was set to be complete on this night, as the franchise was able to partially slay the playoff demon that has haunted them since their existence.
Now a trip to the Western Conference Finals awaits them as a familiar foe will greet them upon their arrival. Playing in front of a packed house for the first time all season, the Clippers ensured that at least two more games will be played in downtown Los Angeles. The Western Conference Finals are set to tip-off on Sunday as Game 1 of the series will take place in Phoenix.
The Suns come into the finals after completing a four-game sweep of the Denver Nuggets. Before bouncing the Nuggets out of the playoffs, Phoenix knocked off Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, the champs of 2020. The Suns are led by Devin Booker and savvy veteran Chris Paul.
The Suns will provide the Clippers and Lue plenty of headaches. For the Clippers, this means a quick turnaround. While the team will surely celebrate their momentous victory over the Jazz, the Suns have been resting since their Game 4 victory in Denver on June 13.
Though the extra days of rest may give the Suns an advantage, the status of Paul is still to be determined as he was placed in the NBA’s COVID protocol following the team’s victory earlier in the week.
Phoenix is not the only team unclear about the status of its leader. The Clippers will continue to be without Leonard. The Clippers forward is expected to miss the first game of the series and is still considered day-to-day by the team.
For now, though, it’s time for the team to bask in what it managed to achieve.
“Special,” Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said. “Celebrating just to get in the playoffs, seeing a lot of people come and go, a lot of friends, and to be with an organization like this, to finish a game like this, to make history, is special, man. Because I, you know, blood, sweat and tears into this s—, injuries, friend getting traded, ups and downs of basketball, to be the last man standing and kind of write history is special, man, very special.
Featured Image Caption: June 18, 2021- Los Angeles Clippers forward Terance Mann plays lockdown defense on Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson in Game 6 of the team’s NBA best-of-seven playoff series. Mann scored 39 points to lead the Clippers to a 131-119 win against the Jazz. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline