Clippers Ready for First Time in the Western Conference Finals

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Fans of the Los Angeles Clippers probably remember many of the star players in team history. From the San Diego days, Bob McAdoo, World B. Free, Swen Nater and Bill Walton. In the Los Angeles era, Ron Harper, the “Polish Rifle” Eric Piatkowski, Danny Manning, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Lou Williams, to name a few.

Former Clippers Guard Lou Williams who is now with the Atlanta Hawks
(Claudia Gestro)

The fans’ new stars are Paul George who has become “Playoff P,” and the Klaw, Kawhi Leonard. In the first round they got a new favorite player, Reggie Jackson and in this series — from Friday’s improbable comeback win in game 6 — Terrance Mann. On Friday Paul George had 29 points and nine rebounds, and Reggie Jackson had 28 points and 10 assists, but Mann finished the game with 39 points. He went seven of ten from the 3-point arc, a perfect 4-4 from the free throw stripe and an astounding 71% shooting over all. Well, 70% from the arc is pretty awesome too.

Mann not only shot from the perimeter, he cut to the basket — and he played defense, guarding arguably the best player on the court, Donovan Mitchell, who still scored 39 points, but struggled down the stretch.

After Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson scored a big chunk of his 21 points in the first half, the Clippers shut him down in the second.

Defense wins games, as everyone knows, and the Clippers screwed down on the Utah Jazz in the second half and with Mann, Jackson, PG and Patrick Beverley (12-4-4) scoring lights out from behind the arc, in front of the arc, in the paint, it was a sight to see. Without question one of the most exciting games I have watched and I have watched a lot of NBA basketball in my lifetime. I remember the time the Milwaukee Bucks swept the Boston Celtics in the playoffs — only to lose to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.

What made game 6 at Staples Center Friday night so exciting was that many of us had written the Clippers off at the half and the Jazz had extended their lead to 25 points in the third quarter. The only ones to believe the Clippers could win were the players and coaches themselves.

Clippers F Paul George (Claudia Gestro)

Then Paul George had a slamma Jamma, and Terrance Mann began his incredible half. You could start to see the disbelief in the eyes of the Jazz. As Scott Van Pelt of ESPN put it, the Clippers used Rudy Gobert’s rim protection reputation against him, pushing the ball out to the perimeter before Gobert could react and block or stop the shots. For the most part the Clippers shot uncontested three-pointers which was the downfall for the Jazz.

As good as Donovan Mitchell played Friday — he scored 39 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished nine assists — they just couldn’t stop the 3-point barrage of the Clippers. Los Angeles made 20 of 39 3-point shots, a cool 51%. Nicolas Batum made four of six 3-point shots. And of course Terrance Mann made seven of ten.

Utah Jazz G Donovan Mitchell
(Claudia Gestro)

The Utah Jazz defense wasn’t great in the second half and it needed to be, out on the perimeter. People will wonder what happened to Jordan Clarkson in the second half. Clippers’ defense is the answer. Royce O’Neale had a good game for Utah, with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Gobert grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his 12 points, but they needed him to step up and play much better in the second half.

The emotions the Clippers displayed at the end of the game; Paul George hugging Terrance Man, Reggie Jackson and coach Ty Lue whipping up the crowd. It was glorious.

That’s the thing with team sports. The odds makers in Nevada don’t always get it right. The Jazz were the #1 seed in the West for a reason. But on Friday Night the Clippers had the best half of their season — of their existence — and they were determined to make it in the Western Conference Finals.

Now they face the #2 seed in the West: the Phoenix Suns. The WCF gets started on Sunday, in Phoenix and the “smart money” says the Suns win that game. They swept the Denver Nuggets, but I think my money, were I betting, would be on the Clippers to win Sunday and then win the series. Phoenix are 4-point favorites and that isn’t wishful thinking, even with super star point guard Chris Paul out for the game.

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul
(Claudia Gestro) give the Suns a 61% chance of winning game 1.

Jeez, I should drive to Vegas right now. I’m excited for the Clippers — which is probably why I should stay home. Making bets on emotions is usually a very bad idea. We will have to wait and see.

The Milwaukee Bucks are about to tip-off with the Brooklyn Nets, in Brooklyn, for game 7 of their series. FiveThirtyEight is basically calling that game a toss-up. I would definitely bet on the Bucks, but I’m a Bucks homer so …

This is turning out to be one of the best NBA Playoffs in a long time. There are three teams still in it that have never won the championship, well Atlanta had a championship in 1958 when they were the St. Louis Hawks. But the Atlanta Hawks have never won the title and it’s been 50 years since the Bucks brought home the trophy. So this is an exciting NBA Playoffs. Enjoy the show.

Clippers Win June 18, 2021
(Claudia Gestro)
Clippers fans (Claudia Gestro)