If going down 0-2 in a playoff series wasn’t bad enough, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the LA Clippers have now done it twice. Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz won Game 2 of their best-of-seven series with the Clippers Thursday night, 117-111, taking a 2-0 series lead head to Los Angeles for Game 3.
The Clippers, however, say they’ve still got a lot of fight after going down 0-2 for the second straight playoff series.
“We all got to put our will out on the floor,” Kawhi Leonard said following the loss. “See what we did in the first two games and try to limit our mistakes and just keep going on from there, pretty much. We’ll see tomorrow what we got to do.
“We’ve got a lot of fight left. We’re up for the challenge.”
Leonard finished with just 21 points on 8-of-19 shooting, his second straight subpar shooting game. Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert made life tough for Kawhi Leonard all night long. His foul trouble in both games contributed as well.
Leonard finished both Games 1 and 2 with four fouls apiece, sitting out crucial parts of the third quarter to avoid picking up a fifth personal. Kawhi says it’s definitely affected his aggressiveness.
“I mean, at times when I’m in there with four fouls, it’s hard to be as aggressive as you want to be on the defensive end as well as offense. You don’t want to get no silly rebound fouls, charges, illegal screens. Yeah, so I mean, a little bit, but just I’ve got to be better with not fouling so I could stay aggressive and play my game.”
Despite trailing by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, the Clippers fought back to take a lead midway through the fourth quarter behind a season-high 29 points for Reggie Jackson on 11-of-19 shooting. Jackson scored 16 pivotal points in the third quarter and another eight in the fourth to give him 24 second-half points.
Two of Jackson’s four three pointers came within 18 seconds of one another, giving the Clippers a two-point lead at 101-99 with 6:37 to play in the fourth quarter.
And then the Clippers’ shot abandoned them just as it had at multiple points in the Mavs series. Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, and Patrick Beverley, three of the team’s best shooters all year long, missed open look after open look.
Took me a bit but compiled the open missed shots from the Clippers in the 4th + the 2 lucky Jazz buckets:
6:04 – Batum miss 3PT
5:17 – Morris miss 3PT
5:10 – Beverley miss 3PT
4:37 – Morris miss 3PT
3:54 – Beverley miss Floater
3:20 – Morris miss 3PT
3:18 – Kawhi miss Layup pic.twitter.com/ftXWmTJfKj
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) June 11, 2021
A little over three minutes and a lot of missed shots later, the Clippers 101-99 lead turned into a 113-103 deficit. In the end, head coach Tyronn Lue believes the first half 13-point deficit, which later got as high as 21, was too much for the Clippers to come back from.
“You can’t dig yourself a hole like that against a good team and then you have to spend and all your energy trying to get back in the game and you don’t have enough to finish,” Ty Lue explained. “You just can’t dig holes like that, especially on the road and playing from behind like that, and we talked about getting off to good starts. Once again Donovan Mitchell got the most of a great start and they just kind of took off from there.”
Donovan Mitchell’s great start actually allowed the Jazz a big enough cushion to take the Clippers punches and remain standing. Mitchell finished with 37 points on 15-of-29 shooting, two nights after dropping 45 points on 16-of-30 shooting in Game 1.
“Just continue to just show physicality and just be aggressive defensively,” Paul George added. “I think we did that more so in the second half. But I think we can start the game off, just make it a little tougher on them.”
Jordan Clarkson was another player who killed the Clippers, pouring in 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including six three-pointers, in 27 minutes off the bench.
Ty Lue believes the challenge of stopping Mitchell and Clarkson starts with the pride of guarding them one-on-one and not getting blown by so easily.
“Just taking the challenge one-on-one against Donovan when he gets the ball up, and it’s not just him. We’re getting beat off the dribble by other guys, too. They put it down on the floor, attacking, and now we have to help and swing for three. We have to do a better job with our individual defense taking the challenge one-on-one. That’s the first thing. We know they thrive on drive-and-kicks, getting to the paint and making plays, so we’ve gotta do a better job of closing out to their other guys and keeping them under control.”
If you followed the game on Twitter, you’d think Paul George was an absolute tire fire. If you watched the game, you’d know he’s doing whatever he can to help the Clippers win.
George had a much better Game 2, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists on 8-of-18 shooting from the field. After scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1, he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2. It just wasn’t enough to avoid another loss.
“We’ve got to give them credit, this is a tough opponent,” Paul George said. “They weren’t No. 1 in the West for no reason. This is a tough team. But, you know, we are approaching this the same way Dallas was; we still feel we have a lot of possessions that we can clean up and a lot of possessions that are hurting us that’s our fault.
“So as good as they are playing, as good as this matchup is, as tough as this matchup is, we still feel like there’s moments throughout this game, this series, that, you know, we are making plays that are self-inflicted. And so again, it’s a lot of uphill, but we’re optimistic that we can get this under control and go back home and one game at a time and try to tie this series up.”
"Gotta give em credit, they weren't No.1 in the West for no reason.. But we still feel we have a lot of possessions that's hurting us that's our fault. We still feel like there's moments throughout this series where we're making plays that are self inflicted."
– Paul George pic.twitter.com/FWpfXkiTot
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) June 11, 2021
The Clippers head home now for Game 3 on Saturday night and Game 4 on Monday night. A loss in Game 3 would make it next to impossible to come back in the series, so it’s safe to expect a bounce back game from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.