The day that started with news that Clippers star Kawhi Leonard would miss at least game 5 ended with a victory against the Utah Jazz in game 5. To say yesterday was a roller coaster day for the Los Angeles Clippers and their fans is doing a disservice to roller coasters. Losing Kawhi Leonard was a real blow to the Clippers and their chances against the #1 Utah Jazz. Even with Leonard the Clippers have had to battle against a very good Jazz team. Everything would have to go right in Utah for the Clippers to have a chance to take a commanding 3-2 lead. In fact, in this article I presented exactly what would have to go right for the Clippers offensively to make up for Leonard’s missing 30 points per game.
- Reggie Jackson who is averaging 15ppg would have to score at least 20
- Marcus Morris Sr. who is averaging 11ppg would have to score at least 21
- Nicolas Batum, who is averaging 9ppg would have to score at least 15
- Luke Kennard and Terance Mann would have to combine to score at least 9 over their average
Jackson scored 22pts (+7 over series average). Morris Sr. scored 25pts (+13). While Batum scored 9, right on his series average, Mann scored 13pts (+9). The trio of Jackson, Morris Sr. and Mann scored 29 points over their average and made up for the offensive contribution of Leonard. It helped of course that Paul George, who came in averaging 27ppg finished the game with a +10 effort scoring 37 points. The Clippers needed all that offensive output and more to get the win in Utah last night. It was a monumental playoff victory for a team hungry for playoff success.
They now find themselves one win away from the Western Conference Finals and a chance to earn that win at home. The Clippers have been here before, but never higher. This is the top of the mountain for them, thus far. A game 6 win in Los Angeles propels the team through the franchise glass ceiling. A loss sends them back to Utah for game 7.
Game 5 was an epic performance from a gritty Clippers team. They are going to have to repeat, or better, that effort to avoid a trip back to Salt Lake City.
Star of the Game
It’s nice when there are so many options in this category. Every starter had a positive +/-, everyone defended well and even the coaching staff was getting love online for their substitutions. No team gets a big win on the road in the playoffs without playing team basketball. But the one player who delivered the punch to the gut of the Jazz was Paul George. His 37 points were nice and needed, but he also had 16 rebounds and 5 assists. You don’t win games with one spectacular player, but you do when you have a solid team effort and a player have a spectacular night. The Clippers were that team last night and PG was that player.
The very latest word on Kawhi Leonard was that the severity of his injury is undetermined. There is swelling in his knee that has to subside before imagining can be done to properly diagnose the injury. The Clippers have to plan to be Kawhi-less for the balance of this series, at least. The biggest concern for the series will be seeing if the Clippers can recapture the magic they had in game 5, The biggest concern for the Clippers franchise overall is the health of Kawhi Leonard.
The Clippers didn’t so much play over their heads in game 5 as they played to their potential. This team has proven to be very good defensively when they needed to be. Last night, they were good on that end when it was needed. On the offensive side there were several players, detailed above, who scored above their average. But, without Kawhi there were more shots to be had. So, more players scoring more points makes sense. In other words, no surprise there.
I think anyone who hasn’t followed the Clippers all season may have been surprised by Terance Mann’s contribution. On top of the 13pts he had 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and one amazing poster dunk on Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. Mann is no surprise to fans of the Clippers, but his performance last night may have introduced him to a wider NBA audience.
Game 6 v Utah Jazz in Los Angeles, Friday, June 18th at 7:00PM Pacific
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Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!