The LA Clippers are getting more and more experienced with must-win games, and on Saturday, they notched another victory in them in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, beating the Utah Jazz 132-106 at Staples Center in Game 3.
The win takes the Clippers to a 2-1 deficit in the series, so they take a bit of the pressure off but it’s still a pressure-packed situation for them moving forward. This was by far the most complete performance for the Clippers in this series and arguably one of their best games of the playoffs this season so far.
Nicolas Batum returned to the Clippers starting five, with Ty Lue opting to move Ivica Zubac back to the bench and start the game small in Los Angeles. Mike Conley Jr. remained out in Game 3 for the Jazz, the guard’s hamstring injury ruling him out once again.
Yet again, the Jazz raced out to an 8-0 start and Lue called a timeout not even 1:15 played in the game, so not an auspicious start.
LA buried a 3-pointer coming out of the timeout courtesy of Batum. From there, the Clippers clawed back, getting the game to 10-10 in pretty short order. The Jazz looked solid, but the Clippers looked genuinely better to start the game than they had in the first two of the series.
Terance Mann entered the game in the final minute of the 1st quarter for LA, after considerable questions about why he barely featured in Game 2. And Patrick Beverley had a nice drive to the rim to close out the opening stanza, with LA leading 27-23 through one quarter.
While Donovan Mitchell was shut out in the 1st quarter, Joe Ingles was the hot hand for the Jazz in the first half, as he scored 14 points in the opening 15 minutes of the game. Meanwhile, Jackson and George were sharp to start, both players posting 12 points by the midway point of the 2nd quarter.
Reggie Jackson is hot early— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 13, 2021
4-4 from deep so far. pic.twitter.com/VS6tDGeqtK
With Mitchell finding his shot and burying eight quick points, LA tried to keep their lead bigger than a couple possessions. They got it, as the Clippers continued to pile up points and took their biggest advantage of the series so far, going up by 16 at one point before heading into the halftime break ahead by 15, with a 64-49 lead. George led all scorers with 20 points, while Mitchell exploded for 16 points in just the 2nd quarter to lead Utah.
The Clippers were able to maintain their edge in the 3rd quarter, with Utah aiming to grind and chip away at their deficit by getting to the foul line after a pretty clean first half. Leonard started to find a rhythm at the rim, picking up a few buckets as he finally found his touch in the series.
But the Jazz found some traction and cut the Clips’ lead in half as the 3rd quarter wore on, with a huge 3-pointer by George pushing the lead back to double-digits.
The Clippers finished the 3rd quarter with an 11-point lead, 94-83, so the Jazz made up a few points and the game certainly wasn’t in hand with 12 minutes to go, but it was a good spot for the home team to be in.
The game was neatly poised in the opening minutes of the 4th quarter, but a sign of LA’s aggression on defense was picking up points off turnovers, with a great fast break leading to Mann kicking out to Luke Kennard in the corner on a fast break, the guard burying the 3-pointer to push the Clippers over the 100-point mark on the night.
Utah tried to make a final rally, and certainly hadn’t given up on the game. Mitchell went up for a lay-up and came down favoring his right foot/ankle, the play looking innocuous at the time, but he went back to the locker room briefly while limping with just under 7:00 to play. He did not return to the game with the Clippers’ lead reaching 20 points down the stretch. In the final minutes both teams cleared the benches and let the reserves bring the game home.
Credit to the Clippers’ defense, because they kept the Jazz uncomfortable and held off the comeback attempt. All in all, it was a complete performance, with the great team and individual defense, the team overall shooting fantastic on the night, going over 50 percent both from the field and 3-point range, and the stars finally hitting their stride on offense. Leonard hit 34 points as he found his stroke, and George had 31 points.
These teams will be back at in on Tuesday at Staples Center for Game 4. The Clippers will be looking for a carbon copy of this performance to tie up the series, it’s another can’t-miss game.