The Clippers are such a strange franchise with so many ghosts in the closet and such a tendency to rush into the void each time that things should be fine, that perhaps its formula is precisely this: play dead, let go, accumulate reviews sounded from the press and memes on social media, hear prophecies about gruesome futures. As if they clung to what you cannot kill what is already dead, The Clippers of these 2021 playoffs are a cold, insensitive block with a particularly strange pace. And that may be your salvation. A team with an unpredictable pulse that we will see if it opens an escape route for the second consecutive eliminatory. Because No one has come back from 2-0 down twice in the same playoffs. And the Clippers lifted it to the Mavericks (with, curling the loop, three losses in the first three games at their court) and they have laid the first stone to turn the Jazz over: 132-106, beating at Staples Center and, for now, the opposite sign to the very strange first round. Against the Mavs the visitor won the first six games. In this semifinal, the local has won the three that have been played. Y tomorrow (04:00) the room goes. Almost final or eliminatory sentence wide open. Can you kill what is already dead?
The Clippers have never played, a fact that is incredible no matter how much it is repeated, a conference final. It is the stamp of your cursed history, that of one of the worst professional franchises in the history of American sports. Salt Lake City came very far from the first … and now they are closer. A little closer … or Quite closer? We will know that tomorrow, but the first part of the work, which will be Herculean in any case, is done. The Jazz ambush included a drastic change in the environment: from the boiling boilers of the Vivint Arena to the ghostly atmosphere of the Staples. Until that, that anticlimatic decompression, can be part of the trousseau of a team in which Tyronn Lue seems to try too many complicated things before taking refuge in the simple ones and in which, at last, the formula that can help them leave behind a superior rival by collective mechanisms appeared: more physical, more defense, more weight of the stars in the rhythm of the game.
Infirmary influences, of course. The Clippers continue non-stop after playing seven games against the Mavericks and have ten in the playoffs. And they are now officially without Serge Ibaka, a player who should have been key in qualifying rounds like this one. But even that war is facing them: Mike Conley is yet to play and Donovan Mitchell is losing health as he racks up minutes. The second game ended, with an ugly and unnecessary final blow from Paul George. And in the last quarter of the third, the last straw one black night, he limped to the locker room. It comes, it must be remembered, from a complicated ankle injury in the second part of the season. And although Quin Snyder ran to say that everything is fineIt is obvious that Mitchell is paying a high price physically. Night after night. And the playoffs are unforgiving: tomorrow, more. Many of the problems of the Jazz would be fixed with the return of Conley. Sometimes it is that simple. More direction, more creation, another handful of shots, good decisions. But the point guard is entangled with the typical muscle injury that is a Yes but no for now constant. A great danger in the playoffs.
In that scenario, a great game was missing full of the Clippers, who they had their moment in the two played in Utah although they both lost. And it came: beating almost from start to finish, at least after an initial 0-8 after two triples released by Joe Ingles. A mirage. Lue bet on smaller quintets and an ultra-aggressive defense with two to three men making life miserable for Mitchell. It worked on a bad day from Bogdanovic and Clarkson and with less impact from Gobert due to the much more volatile style of the opponent. In addition, the stars responded emphatically: Paul George scored 20 points in a memorable first half and finished with 31. And Kawhi Leonard took over after the break: 24 of his 34 totals (with 12 rebounds and 5 assists) and an iron fist when the Jazz gave a substitute based on triples. A 66-49 nothing to start the third quarter reached 84-76 that was not compressed further. The Clippers neither hesitated nor trembled. They were better through and through this time, with very serious games by Batum (17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 triples) and Reggie Jackson (four triples without failure to start, 17 points) and a defense that left the Jazz at 15 assists for 16 losses. Out of his style, lacking energy or precision, no way to the rim and forced to live hanging from a Mitchell who did not score in the first quarter (for the first time in more than two years), he added 16 points in a heroic second set ( the first basket, after more than 16 minutes) and finished with 30… and ice on the ankle. Bad thing, very bad thing.
The Jazz came to LA with a tremendous cushion. A 2-0 would have to be more than enough advantage for a team with 72% victories in the regular phase (52-20, the best record in the NBA). This defeat may simply be the swan song of a harassed, wounded, desperate rival: pass. If the Jazz react tomorrow, we will surely end up having that feeling. But maybe the Clippers have found their formula, maybe Mitchell continues to add ailments and Conley does not finish coming back even though he always seems about to. On the other hand, everyone who sees the glass as they want, defense will hardly be as dreadful as in this third game, and surely Snyder will better prepare a team that, when things get tough, he has a serious bench depth problem. So this may be a mirage … or the start of a revolution. The Clippers are there, and they’ve hit the table well. From the grave or, precisely, without resigned to falling into it because, after all, you cannot kill what is already dead. There are series.