PG-13 Loves Game III’s

Updated: June 14, 2021
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No team has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficient in NBA history. With that fact constantly repeated throughout the playoffs, you’d assume the Clippers would come out the gates the hungrier team with their backs up against the wall. Instead, Ty Lue was forced to waste their first timeout less than 90 seconds into the 1st quarter as the Jazz took an immediate 8-0 lead. Without Mike Conley available, still on the disabled list and stuck on the sidelines, the Aussie, Joe Ingles has been permanently inserted into Utah’s starting lineup. At times a streaky shooter, he seems to have gotten hot right at the right time.

Straight out of the timeout, T-Lue ran an isolation miss-match for the recently crowned second option of LA, Reggie Jackson, for a splash from well beyond the 3-point line to put the Clips on the board. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the convos between Kawhi and his camp about another PG-13 no-show. Contemplations if Leonard should just fly to Cancun a game early if they are forced to witness another side of the backboard 4th quarter disappearance and go down 3-0.

Would Ty put one of his elite defensive wings on Mitchell early, or would they again wait for D-Wade 2.0 to put up another 20+ first half points before going into desperation mode? The answer came quickly. Kawhi and a double team on D-Mitch, and a 7-0 run with Reggie Jackson continuing to play at a level which may have a team this offseason foolishly paying him north of 12 million per. PG-13 seemed to be set on letting Staples Center know that he wouldn’t be shy from attacking the basket early, and led the Clips to their first lead at 12-10.

With several missed opportunities at the rim by the Jazz and a constant double on Donavan, it appeared it would be a very different type of game than the ones we had witnessed in Utah. Ty Lue had finally committed to his small-ball lineups, keeping Zubac the Croatian giant’s minutes under 14. Clarkson was quickly inserted into the lineup and immediately made his impact, but the double had its effects on Mitchell as he went to the bench at the 3-minute mark scoreless. Despite the swings from the first blows thrown by Utah and then a 10-minute run which felt dominated by LA, the end of 1st was only separated by 4 points 27-23 in favor of the Clips.

Directly after Clarkson got hit with a flagrant 1 for his karate chop on Zubac’s enormous head, Clarkson stroked his 3rd three as George attempted to sell a second flagrant act instead of contesting the shot. But despite D-Mitch waking up in the 2nd, Paul George owned the first half with a monster 20 points mostly from distance. It would be an uphill climb the rest of the way for Utah down 49-64. The series 2-0 in a must-win game, the question was, would the PG-light show continue when it mattered, and would the 4th quarter killer in Kawhi take over? Or would we instead see more heroics from Utah’s young blossoming superstar?

A bit of back and forth to start the second half, but the score stayed at a steady 15-point separation for the first handful of minutes through the 3rd. Leonard’s sluggish start seemed to have had no effect on his mentality as he began to show flashes of Toronto  Kawhi and his ability to get to his spots at will. Both stars from opposing camps continued to establish their footing as they went back and forth playing tug-a-war with the score through the first half of the third. But with a little over 5 minutes to play in the quarter, even with zero in the 1st, Donavan had 26 and had brought the Clippers’ lead to single digits.

Both franchises’ role players continued to hit their jumpers from behind the arc, with 27 combined 3’s at 4 minutes left in the 3rd as the double-digit lead teetered above and below 10. At moments it felt PG-13’s offensive push would help blow the lead wide open, but by the end of the quarter, the Clips lead remained at 11.

Ty Lue decided to split his stars, allowing Kawhi to rest on the sidelines for the beginning of the 4th. The gamble paid off, as George’s unit extended to lead to 13, allowing Leonard to rest until the 9-minute mark. With 8 minutes to go, even with the others of Utah hitting shots, the lead was pushed to 14. Both Mitchel and Paul George sat at 30 points apiece, but it was the boys from southern California who looked as if they were determined to make this a series and force a flight back to Utah. With the lead still at 14, at the 7-minute mark, Mitchell was seen limping down the tunnel in visible pain. Reports have still not confirmed if it was the same ankle that he reaggravated, as it was difficult to decipher from the replay. However, it appeared it would not be Utah’s night. Jazz fans watching hoped that the new defensive schemes along with the injuries to their scorers would not stand as a microcosm for the rest of the series.

As the young Donavon Mitchell debated with Quin Snider about him reentering the game, Kawhi drained a top of the key triple to balloon the lead to 18. Shortly after, Batum hit yet another triple which felt like the dagger even with 5 minutes remaining. With the deficit extended to 21, Mitchell still on the sidelines, and the ESPN telecast reminiscing about Stockton and Malone, a once hard-fought outing had turned itself into a late-game blowout. Paul George answered the call putting up 31, 6-10 from distance. Despite his slow start, Kawhi ended with 30, 15, and 5. Ty Lue finally used Terance Mann who was a +21 while he was on the floor.

All of that said, despite Donavan’s 30 piece, it will be his health moving forward which will be the talk of the town as it undoubtedly shapes the tone of the rest of the series. Will the two-way tandem of LA take the next one at home and send the series back to Utah tied, or will the Jazz find a way to enter Salt Lake up 3-1 and destined for the first Conference Finals since the Jordan era? We’ll find out soon enough.

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