This 0-2 gap, in some methods, isn’t as dispiriting because the earlier spherical’s appeared to be for the Los Angeles Clippers.
We’re solely 18 days faraway from the Clippers humiliatingly coughing up the primary two to the underdog Dallas Mavericks, with every loss approaching their Staples Center dwelling ground. Never thoughts whether or not or not they’d win the collection, a sweep was on the minds of some earlier than the Clippers got here again and received Games 3 and 4 in Dallas, and subsequently received Games 6 and seven after dropping down to 3-2 following 5. Their Game 7 victory in Los Angeles is the one time a house workforce received a sport in that collection.
But this time, they’re down 0-2 to the top-seeded Utah Jazz, to whom they misplaced final night time, 117-111. Until Kawhi Leonard really grew to become Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers didn’t have an opportunity towards the Mavericks, and even when he did, it didn’t quantity to a assured victory — see Game 2 the place Leonard dropped 41 factors on 14-of-21 taking pictures in a 127-121 loss. But nonetheless, with out Leonard being Leonard — certainly one of 12 NBA gamers to ever win Finals MVP a number of occasions — the Clippers could be cooked. In Games 6 and seven, specifically, you noticed it.
In Game 6, the Mavs led 85-84 with 6:10 left, after which the Clippers outscored them 20-12 en route to a 104-97 victory. Leonard had 10 of these factors and completed the night with an all-time playoff efficiency of 45 factors on 18 of 25 taking pictures, together with 5-of-9 makes from deep. And In Game 7, although his scoring numbers weren’t as gaudy — he contributed 28 factors on 10 of 15 taking pictures, together with 10 rebounds and 9 assists — Leonard spearheaded the late-game defensive stress on Luka Dončić, who completed with 46 factors on 17 of 30 taking pictures, however shot 2-for-6 when guarded by Leonard.
That’s the man who wants to be the catalyst for Los Angeles, not the one who was simply OK, by his excessive requirements, in Utah these first two outings.
So far, it’s been the Donovan Mitchell Show offensively. The Louisville product has scored a mixed 72 factors on 31 of 59 taking pictures to date this collection and is unstoppable no matter who’s on him. Even with out Mike Conley (hamstring), the Jazz have outscored the Clippers a mixed 9 factors within the first two video games.
In Game 1, Leonard was actually his common self, netting 23 factors on 9 of 19 taking pictures. But despite the fact that Paul George pulled down 10 rebounds, he solely shot 4 of 17 from the ground and completed with 20 factors. Luke Kennard is admittedly the one different Clipper who had a major contribution, pouring in 18 factors off the bench on 7 of 9 taking pictures. And in Game 2, Leonard was really a contact much less impactful, ending with 21 factors on 8 of 17 taking pictures. George rebounded with a useful 27 factors on 8 of 18 taking pictures, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. George additionally drained all 9 of his free throw makes an attempt. And Reggie Jackson really paced the offense with 29 factors on 11 of 19 taking pictures, together with 4 of 8 makes from three. The challenge? No different Clipper recorded greater than 8 factors. Kennard, who had the large Game 1, scored three factors in 10 minutes, recording one shot try.
Last collection, when Leonard started repeatedly taking part in as we’re accustomed to, others adopted. You noticed Jackson make vital closing buckets within the fourth quarter of Game 7. You noticed George feed off of Leonard’s emergence, constantly attacking and getting to the foul line regardless of struggling from the sphere, and also you noticed the workforce lock in defensively seemingly each time they wanted to.
We haven’t seen the Leonard that ate the hearts of Mavericks followers but on this collection, however we must always count on to. The Clippers will want it so as to salvage their Western Conference title hopes. And no, this isn’t all on Leonard, and even the Leonard and George tandem — others have to step-up, too. It’s the playoffs in spite of everything. But Leonard has to lead by instance as he did to dig them out of a 0-2 deficit simply weeks in the past. It begins with the man who wants to be the man.