The Clippers put together one of the greatest wins in the history of the franchise, upsetting the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, 119-111. With the victory, the Clippers bring a 3-2 series lead home to Los Angeles. That they did it just hours after former coach Doc Rivers’ 76ers blew a 26-point lead only adds flourish to the poetry. Paul George struck back at his critics; the Clippers survived a withering barrage; Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson played like stars; and more coming up in this Game 5 recap:
The Clippers’ surprise morning announcement that Kawhi Leonard would miss Game 5 with a knee sprain put a challenge to Paul George that was both immense and clear: play like a transformational star.
Paul George was up for the challenge.
The Clippers’ embattled wing submitted a signature night, scoring 37 points and adding 16 rebounds and five assists to give the franchise perhaps its most notable victory so far.
George was asked to lead and he did so all the way. He led his team in field goals and attempts, free throws and attempts, three-point attempts, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, assists, and blocks. (In a minor upset, Nicolas Batum edged him out in minutes played.) His three makes from deep tied three teammates for the team-high.
George’s five turnovers are a blemish, but given his monumental playmaking load and place in Utah’s defensive attention, it’s a forgivable one. It was his proficiency in navigating Utah’s increasing defensive pressure that helped turn the game in the third quarter and seal it in the fourth. Paul George carried the Clippers to the mountaintop and then he took them home.
And it was quite the mountain to climb. The Utah Jazz made it so. Bojan Bogdanovic made it so.
According to the national broadcast, no team this season had attempted nor converted as many three pointers in a single half as the Jazz did before halftime tonight. Quin Snyder’s mad bombers jacked 30 threes and made 17 of them. It still feels like a typo. “Hot” doesn’t do them justice, and I exhausted the thesaurus in a search for something that could.
Bogdanovic was the ace among aces. He scored 23 of his team-high 32 points in the first half. 18 of those, on six treys, came in the first quarter. The Clippers contested him, but he didn’t care.
The Jazz were so productive from deep that they didn’t need anything else. They attempted just seven two-point field goals in the first half. (They made six, because they made everything.) The splashes came so frequently that the crowd never had time to settle into a lull. Utah’s 65-60 halftime lead was built through a relentless roar.
That the Clippers weathered such a torrential storm was testament both to their tenacity and their own shotmaking. They rode their aggressive defense, turning turnovers into scoring opportunities. Utah handed over 11 of its 13 turnovers in the first half. Both teams cooked, and the commentators weren’t wrong to compare the pace and scoring production to the All-Star Game’s.
The tempo changed in the third quarter, as did the lead, and not coincidentally. The Clippers demonstrated their comfort level within a deliberate half-court game, leveraging their strategic advantages over the Jazz to win the frame 32-18.
Marcus Morris Sr. was one such advantage. The Clippers needed role players to step up in Kawhi’s absence, and Morris was one of many to deliver. He showed off tremendous shotmaking, backing down the smaller Jazz in the post for postseason-sized midrange buckets. He scored 25 points, a career playoff high, and trailed only Paul George in makes.
The fourth quarter brought more intensity and more noise. With the crowd returning to its lather, the Jazz swarmed the Clippers. George and company, so adept at handling double teams a quarter earlier, grew imprecise in the face of increasing pressure and mounting fatigue. After invoking Lawler’s Law with 6:45 remaining, a 7-0 Utah run off Clippers turnovers cut the good guys’ lead to three.
With George finally laboring, Reggie Jackson stepped into the playmaking void and squelched Utah’s counterattack with the kind of timely and heroic shots that will earn him an eye-watering raise over the summer. With Morris ably filling the second banana role, Jackson took his now characteristic turn in the team’s third-star rotation, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the final frame.
With the Clippers settled at arms’ length from the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell took his swings at chopping down the lead, but connected on too few to capture the glory for himself. Mitchell scuffled to 21 points, converting just six of 19 field goal attempts and four of 14 three-point attempts. He was conspicuously bothered by both his knee and Patrick Beverley.
Through the fourth-quarter slog, Paul George’s aggressiveness never wavered. His paint forays were critical to opening the shots that carried the endgame, and it was his clutch and-one jumper and free throws that iced it.
Game 6 comes Friday night, and so does the opportunity for Paul George and franchise to mint an even greater achievement.
- Terance Mann started in Kawhi’s vacated spot. He scored 13 points in 26 minutes and atoned for (and then some) his first-round rim gaffe with an absolutely seismic dunk on Rudy Gobert.
- Each of the Clipper starters finished with a positive plus-minus, none lower than Paul George’s plus-nine. Rajon Rondo recorded a minus-12 in just nine minutes, effectively playing his way out of the rotation for the second half. Luke Kennard and Patrick Beverley were Tyronn Lue’s top choices to augment the starters, as the Clippers almost completely eschewed Ivica Zubac (eight minutes) for small lineups. Lue got the good Beverley tonight — he was an absolute defensive menace.
- Mann’s yam notwithstanding, Rudy Gobert was his usual towering presence at the rim. He tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds, five offensively. He punished the center-less Clippers in the third quarter with a run on offensive boards.
- Royce O’Neale is quickly establishing himself within the rogues’ gallery of Clipper villains. He drew a flagrant 1 foul, Utah’s third of the series, after pulling down Paul George by the neck.
- Nic Batum continues to shine in the Clippers’ aggressive defensive scheme. He swiped a game high four steals and pulled down seven defensive boards while battling the man-tree, Gobert.
That does it for this recap of the Clippers’ Game 5 win over the Jazz. Stay on the lookout for more analysis of this series and an episode of TLTJTP soon.
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