LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) With their backs up against the walls for a second straight series, the Los Angeles Clippers continue to prove they are up for the fight that a postseason march to the championship entails. Down 2-0 against the Utah Jazz heading into a pivotal Game 3, the Clippers defended home court Saturday afternoon at STAPLES Center in a 132-106 beatdown.
After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of these playoffs, the Clippers did something Saturday afternoon that they struggled to do in their first-playoff series up until Game 7. Win at home.
Backed by their two superstars, the Clippers responded to the challenge of being down 0-2. Forward Kawhi Leonard and shooting guard Paul George combined for 65 points on the night. Leonard led all scorers with 34 points on an efficient 14-24 shooting from the field, adding 12 rebounds and 5 assists. Leonard only committed two turnovers throughout the game as he continues to take care of the ball, a key to the team’s victories this postseason.
“We’re just really not a selfish team. We just want to make the right plays on the floor,” Leonard said. “I think we just played in the flow of the game pretty much. Shots go in or not. Our job is to keep being aggressive for ourselves and others.”
For George, his dazzling night ended with 31 points which included going 6-10 from beyond the arc. George caught fire during the second quarter, making one electrifying play after another. During a stretch of scoring 10 points in a handful of minutes during the quarter, George started the show after cutting in the lane and throwing down a two-handed jam that caused the crowd at Staples Center to explode out of their seats.
After putting his defender in a blender with a smooth crossover and step-back jumper for another deuce, George brought the house down with one of his six three-pointers. With the shot clock ticking away, George stepped back and nailed a three-pointer, bringing the crowd to a roar as he stood frozen in place for a second, admiring his shot and enjoying the moment.
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“It’s just all about putting pressure on the defense and staying with an attack mentality all game,” George said. “I just think I shot my shots. I looked to get to the shots that I’m most comfortable with and stuck to it.”
Heading into the crucial Game 3 at home, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue continued to show that same poise and claim as he did when facing a similar dilemma just a week ago.
“The biggest thing and the point of emphasis was to make sure we handled Donovan tonight,” Lue said. “No easy baskets for him, though he did make some tough shots. He made some shots in the paint where he double pumped the defender. I thought overall we did a fairly decent job on him tonight.”
“We just want to make the right plays.”
Kawhi Leonard discusses the @LAClippers unselfishness and feeding the hot hand.
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A key point to the victory for the Clippers was the ability to slow down Utah Jazz superstar Donovan Mitchell. After watching the guard go off for 45 points in Game 1 and 37 points in Game 2, both of which were Jazz victories, the Clippers’ defense was able to keep him to 30 points on the night.
For Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, despite yet another 30-point effort from the Jazz superstar, the ability to prevent Mitchell from taking over the game proved more valuable. Jackson spoke after the game on how difficult it is for the team to stop a scorer like Mitchell.
“Donovan’s a great player. He’s on the better players in the league,” Jackson said. “One of the best players, he’s very talented. Relentless. He’s going to attack all night, so for us tonight, I liked that we held his field-goal attempts to 24.”
Now as the series continues along, the Clippers must be able to capitalize on the wide-open looks that they were able to generate tonight on offense. As a team, the Clippers knocked down 19 three-pointers on 36 attempts which was good for 52 percent on the night.
Struggling much of this postseason to shot above their league-leading three-point percentage, Los Angeles’s ability to get back into this series will rely on how well they are able to capitalize on these wide-open opportunities.
With Game 4 slated for Monday night back at STAPLES Center, the difference between a 2-2 series or a 3-1 series heading back to Utah is worlds apart. Though having one of the best coaches in the NBA history when facing elimination in coach Lue, a Clippers fan base will be much more relaxed knowing there will be one more game played at home this postseason.
Despite the thrilling, emotional win tonight, the team must remember just that, it’s only one win. One win to get themselves back into the series, one more game to keep the dream alive. For now, as Leonard has made it a point to preach all season, one game at a time, so now for this Los Angeles Clippers team, it’s on to the next game.
“It was a total team win,” Lue said. “Guys coming off the bench were great. PG and Kawhi really set the tone; PG early and Kawhi late, and that’s what we need from our two best players to be able to do that and set the table for everyone else, and they did.”
Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in action against the Utah Jazz in an NBA game played Feb. 19, 2021 at STAPLES Center. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
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