The LA Clippers weathered cold runs and surges in alternating fashion with the Utah Jazz, but ultimately it was the Jazz that prevailed in Game 2 of the teams’ playoff series, by a 117-111 score on Thursday at Vivint Arena.
The Clippers trailed for nearly the entire game, but they kept pace with the Jazz for most of the night, never letting the game get out of hand. Their late rally nearly came together, but the Jazz had an even later surge after LA took their first lead of the night, and put the game to bed, going up 2-0 in the series in the process.
Ty Lue made one change to his starting five, bringing in Ivica Zubac to provide size in the lineup and moving Nicolas Batum to the bench. The other four starters — Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson — remained intact.
It was a quick start for the Jazz, with the home side racing out to a 10-2 lead, Lue calling a timeout before two minutes had elapsed in the game. Donovan Mitchell had eight of those points to tip off the game for Utah.
The Clippers managed to keep pace and claw their way back in short order. Luke Kennard hit a buzzer-beater to end the 1st quarter from the quarter, to give LA a one-point deficit, as Utah led 30-29 through 12 minutes.
As promised, Lue went with an expanded rotation in the 1st half for the Clippers, with Patrick Beverley and DeMarcus Cousins getting extended minutes and making good plays along the way.
The game stayed close in the 2nd quarter, but the Jazz hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the half to extend their lead to 10 points, and then they went further, wrapping up the 1st half with a 66-53 lead, the Clippers leaving their work cut out for them after halftime.
Leonard was the only LA player in double digits at halftime, with 14, but Mitchell was nigh unstoppable in the first half, posting 27 points to continue his hot form from Game 1 for the Jazz.
It got worse to open the 3rd quarter, as a combination of Utah staying hot on offense and the Clippers racking up a bunch of early fouls left no mistake as to which team was in control of the game, as the Jazz extended their lead to 21 points.
But Jackson stepped up to hit some shots to keep LA within arm’s length, the Clippers chipping the deficit to nine points midway through the 3rd quarter.
Reggie feelin' it.— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) June 11, 2021
He's got 14 points so far in the third. pic.twitter.com/2KIB0auRRb
Utah hit a cold run and the Clippers made up ground, with a play in which every player on the court touched the ball ended with Zubac hitting a big slam dunk to make it a six-point deficit.
But Utah aired it out again, the Clippers battled back to stay alive in the game, and somehow all the swings in the 3rd quarter led to Utah leading 93-86. So the Clippers actually ended up ahead of where they were a quarter earlier.
In the opening seconds of the 4th quarter, Utah’s Joe Ingles uncocked an elbow into Beverley’s jaw, and the play ended up being called a Flagrant 1 foul, with Beverley burying both free throws and LA burying the 3-pointer on the following possession to narrow the game to two points.
And while George had his own ups and downs in the game, he pushed hard to drive to the rim in the 2nd half and found considerable success, hitting a series of shots amid major contact.
Leonard struggled again by his lofty standards in Game 2, but he grinded to continue contributing down the stretch.
Jackson hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the 4th quarter to give LA their first lead of the game, at 101-99, hoping to invoke Lawler’s Law in the process.
But the Jazz came right back, tying up the game quickly before Bojan Bogdanovic buried a 3-pointer to give the home team the lead again.
And from there the Jazz got on another big run, going up 113-103 as they found their shooting touch and the Clippers lost theirs. LA had another chance to tie up the game in the final two minutes, but they completely lost their shot and the Jazz saw out the game.
Jackson was the top player on the night for the Clippers, scoring 29 and lifting the team in their low moments. George had 27 points, and Leonard clawed (no pun intended) for 21, the stars both struggling to find their stroke from range on the night.
These teams will get a travel day and then will be back at it, on Saturday at Staples Center in Game 3. The Clippers are in a two-game hole again, but can they dig out of it this time? You can only go one game at a time, and they’ll have their season on the line, effectively, again in the next game.