Faced with the possibility of losing 3-0 to the number one seeded Utah Jazz, the fourth seeded LA Clippers played their best basketball of the second round series on Saturday in a 132-106 victory. in match 3.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George paved the way for the Clippers, as the two stars eclipsed the 30-point mark in the playoffs for the second time in their careers as teammates. LA is now 2-0 in these games. Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, a team-high, for the Jazz, his 14th career game of 30 points in just 30 playoff games, but he retired midway through the fourth quarter after aggravating an injury to the ankle.
Can the Clippers continue to ride in Game 4? Will the Jazz have a healthy backcourt to use on Monday? Here are five things we gleaned from Game 3.
MORE: Matchups, Schedules & Full NBA Playoff Coverage
Playoff P arrived on Saturday
Over the past few years, no one has taken more abuse for his Paul George playoff failures. Time and time again, he and his teams have fallen flat in the playoffs, and George’s play – and his words – has been dissected endlessly.
Saturday night, however, recalled why the Clippers struggled to pair George with Leonard two years ago – and why Leonard himself wanted to play alongside him.
George finished Game 3 with 31 points and five assists while getting 6 for 10 on a 3-point range – the kind of efficient offensive performance the Clippers desperately needed to get back into this Western Conference semifinal. , and a George had to try to change the impression the basketball world has of him.
It has been forgotten that during his time with the Indiana Pacers, George experienced massive playoff moments. But these have been eclipsed by setbacks since then – from the first-round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, when Damian Lillard finished the series with a bomb on him from nearly half the pitch, to the collapse of the last year against the Denver Nuggets, when George hit the side of the backboard for 3 in the Clippers’ Game 7 loss. His nickname “Playoff P” thus became the subject of an endless series of jokes.
If he and the Clippers can get out of that hole, it will give George a chance to rewrite the narrative that has sprouted around him. As my colleague Brian Windhorst likes to say, “Winning a championship means never having to say you’re sorry.
Saturday night’s blast brought George and the Clippers one step closer. – Tim bontemps
Clippers find ways to attack Gobert
As good as Donovan Mitchell was for Utah in the first two games, Rudy Gobert’s impact on both ends was almost as big. The Jazz had a plus-19 differential in Gobert’s 69 minutes of action and topped by 10 in the other 27 minutes in Salt Lake City. That changed on Saturday, as Utah was a minus-16 with Gobert on the pitch – similar at plus-minus for the team’s other starters.
After playing big in Game 2 with Ivica Zubac starting at center, the Clippers returned to their small starting lineup without a traditional cross. This forced Gobert to defend a shooter on the perimeter, allowing the Clippers to attack without him so close to the basket. And unlike Game 1 – when they also started playing small ball – the Clippers avoided getting crushed on the offensive glass by Jazz, who only recovered 22.5% of available offensive rebounds.
The result was a 44-32 advantage in the paint for the Clippers, who shot 55% (22 of 40) on those attempts while Utah struggled to finish in the paint, at 16 of 35 (46 %). – Kevin pelton
Kawhi is still the best two-way player in the game
Kawhi Leonard takes matters into his own hands as he heads for the basket and the sky to vandalize the rim on a powerful throw.
You knew Leonard would be the best player on the pitch for at least one game in this series.
For the Clippers to have any hope of progressing, it had to happen in Game 3. As he has done several times with LA in dire first-round situations, Leonard seized the opportunity.
Thanks to Paul George for making Leonard’s status as the biggest star in the Clippers’ win on Saturday questionable. George had his best offensive performance of this playoff with 31 points, but Leonard’s extra-large fingerprints were all over the win.
Leonard dominated with his strength, tenacity and athleticism. He scored 34 points on 14 of 24 shots, with more than half of his buckets in the paint. He caught 12 rebounds, several of the variety going up and getting in traffic. He was the Clippers’ most impactful defenseman, protecting Donovan Mitchell for much of the jazz star’s scoreless first quarter and wreaking havoc as an auxiliary defenseman on several occasions.
You thought a two-time NBA Finals MVP wouldn’t go down without a fight. Leonard landed haymaking on Saturday night. – Tim Mac Mahon
Jazz needs Mike Conley Jr.
Donovan Mitchell’s heroism in the first two games was a great cover-up, but Mike Conley Jr. missed the Jazz. When Spida is off the ground, Conley is often tasked with leading the attack and creating a great looks for non-Mitchell teammates.
In the first two games of the series, unnamed Jazz players Mitchell shot just 38% from the field (46-for-121). Conley is the only other starter who can create a good look for himself, and without him the offense is too one-dimensional. The Clippers would eventually adapt to the Jazz’s offensive patterns, and did so in Game 3.
With Mitchell apparently having twisted his previously injured ankle multiple times in this series, Conley’s offensive creation is even more vital if Mitchell is slowed down in any way. – Andre Snellings
Reggie Jackson, The X Factor
When the Clippers completed the roster pieces to complete their two-star, they probably weren’t exactly expecting Reggie Jackson to become a sniper and a critical third goalscorer.
But as this series progresses, Jackson’s importance becomes evident. Not only is he a blueprint maker and blueprint maker, but he’s the spacer and pressure release that can open up avenues for Leonard and George. Jackson’s late shot clock’s ability to lead the way or hit a hard step back is the kind of bailout that playoff wins are often built on.
Against a team like Jazz, which dynamically moves the ball, balances their score and hits 3 dams, relying on a two-headed attack was never going to be enough. But if Jackson is to consistently deliver the kind of production of a pseudo third start, the Clippers suddenly start to look like the super team they were meant to be. – Royce Young