In all of sport’s great comebacks, fans will forever ponder the exact moment the tables turned. Whether it’s a rousing speech by the coach, injury to a key opposition player or your own team’s star player deciding enough is enough — though we’re often left never knowing quite what altered the momentum of the biggest matchups.
However, when the Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 25-point deficit in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz, it’s unlikely any supporter attributed it to any of the above.
For one, our star player Kawhi Leonard had gone down with an injury in Game 5 of the series, Donovan Mitchell was still on the court as the walls came tumbling down around his team, and Ty Lue doesn’t necessarily seem the type for a big emotional monologue to remind his guys who they are.
No, this will of course forever be remembered as the “Terance Mann Game,” though there were a few key contributing factors that saw such a swing take place. Yet the man himself told Jon Lee and Jack Coghlan of the ‘Courtside’ podcast that there was a weakness he and his teammates knew about their opponents before he personally went on to put up 25 second-half points — leaving him with a final tally of 39 on 7 of 10 from 3-point range.
“We were down by like 25 or something like that but… We knew we were mentally stronger than their team, so we knew we were going to bring ourselves back in the game and give ourselves a chance.
“Everybody was confident about that at half time and that kind of was the speech; we know what they’re capable of, we know they’re gonna let us back in the game. Just once we do get back in the game, stick to the game plan and do what we do.”
This is just the latest revelation in a long line of bad looks for Utah, leading to them blowing it up this summer by firing Quin Snyder and trading away Rudy Gobert. In general, that loss to the Clippers is seen as one of the lowest moments of the Mitchell-Gobert big two era, given Kawhi’s injury and the fact that Mann’s previous career high for 3s made in a game was just two.
That never stopped Mann from believing he was capable of such a game, and it’s that belief that continues to drive him on to becoming a key component of this squad. This wasn’t simply a story of hope though, as he said the team had already started planning for him to have a big game after their tie-breaking Game 5 win in Utah.
“I know I can shoot the 3, the Jazz didn’t believe I could and every time somebody would drive, Rudy Gobert would just help in and leave me alone.
“I noticed it last game, the game before that where we won in Utah. I knew going into that game I was gonna get a lot of wide open looks, so basically the two days before that I just prepared myself to knock down 3s.
“While it was happening, I kind of knew it was going to happen so I was just locked in on just catching and shooting. That’s basically what I did, stick to the game plan and that was the game plan.”
Well, the game plan worked. The Clippers reached their first-ever Western Conference Finals and, though they would eventually bow out in the Western Conference Finals to the Phoenix Suns after further injury woes, it’s probably the most hopeful finish to a season that this franchise has ever seen.
As for Utah, that defeat put further doubt in the minds of everybody that they had what it took, which brings us to where we are today. What will happen there next remains to be seen, though some may argue they’ve already had the last laugh over their critics by getting a record haul of draft capital for Gobert.
Whichever way it goes though, we’ll always have the “Terance Mann Game.”