The Utah Jazz outlasted the LA Clippers with a 112-109 win in Game 1 of their 2021 NBA Playoffs semifinals series.
Donovan Mitchell scored 45 points to help his team overcome 21 straight misses in the first half as they rallied back from a 14-point deficit.
It was a nip-and-tuck affair in the fourth quarter as the LA Clippers made their own comeback from a 10-point deficit with 5:22 to go in the game. However, they couldn’t make a basket with 15.9 seconds remaining and the Utah Jazz up by three.
Rudy Gobert blocked Marcus Morris Sr.’s three-point attempt from the corner, and Joe Ingles bothered the Clippers forward on his final shot.
It was an excellent display of defense from the Jazz, who put their stamp on the last possession with their defense.
The LA Clippers would not have been in the game without their reserves. Luke Kennard led the bench squad that saw contributions from Rajon Rondo, Terrance Mann, Ivica Zubac and DeMarcus Cousins for a total of 42 points. The bench overcame a slow start from Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, who had 20 and 23 points, respectively.
However, the Utah Jazz countered with strong bench play from Jordan Clarkson, who had 18 points, including six three-pointers.
Here are five talking points from the LA Clippers-Utah Jazz game:
1. Donovan Mitchell in playoff form
Donovan Mitchell wasn’t as involved in the first half but started getting hot in the third quarter. He made 4-of-4 shots to start the period and never looked back. The two-time All-Star looked like he was going for 50 points, with multiple three-pointers in the second half.
He shot 16-of-30 from the field, including 6-of-15 from three. Averaging nearly 28 points per game in career playoffs, Mitchell now has four games of 40 points or more to tie NBA legend Karl Malone for the most in franchise history.
2. Luke Kennard carries the load for the LA Clippers
Luke Kennard came out smoking hot off the bench for the LA Clippers, making nearly every shot he took in the first half. He led the team in scoring with 11 points before the halftime buzzer.
The 2017 draftee also recorded 11 points in the Game 7 win against the Dallas Mavericks, and his hot hand carried over to tonight’s game.
Kennard would score 18 points overall, shooting 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the arc.
3. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were too little, too late
It was a horrible shooting night for two of the LA Clippers’ biggest stars. Paul George shot an ice-cold 4-of-17 from the floor, while Kawhi Leonard shot 9-of-19. Leonard was able to break out of his slump in the fourth quarter, but he couldn’t make the game-winning play.
Having said that, credit should go to George for playing through a tough shooting night. As chants of “overrated” rained down from the Utah Jazz crowd, the LA Clippers star knocked down two clutch free throws with 1:37 remaining and a three-pointer with 38.4 seconds to play. His efforts helped cut the Utah Jazz’s lead to three, 112-109.
4. Utah Jazz take advantage of foul-troubled LA Clippers
The LA Clippers and the Utah Jazz were in the penalty with eight minutes to go, but it was the latter who took advantage of the early foul situation. Reggie Jackson fouled out with 6:13 still left to play.
The Utah Jazz attempted 10 free throws with almost eight minutes remaining, and that partially spelled the difference in the game.
5. Utah Jazz missed Mike Conley in the first half
Mike Conley missed Game 1 with a hamstring strain, and it looked like the Utah Jazz would be blown out in the first half by the LA Clippers. Gobert was perhaps the most affected by his absence as their pick-and-roll play was missing.
When the Jazz clunked 21 consecutive shots, it showed just how valuable Conley was as he would have stabilized their offense with his playmaking savvy. Thankfully for Utah, they recovered in time to offset his absence.
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