The Los Angeles Clippers have come to be known as a team that performs at its best when its back is against the wall.
They weren’t the ones facing elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday in Los Angeles, but they kept that mentality going, rallying from a 25-point deficit in the second half to beat the Utah Jazz 131-119 in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. All after the Clippers faced an 0-2 deficit in its second straight postseason series.
For the first time in the franchise’s often sorry 50-year history, the Clippers advanced to the conference finals — a feat Los Angeles was one game away from on eight previous occasions.
In the playoffs, “your backs are against the wall all the time,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said prior to Friday’s game. “We’re upset that we had to take that 0-2 deficit to start the series, but we found ways to win, we found ways to claw back, we made adjustments. … Our team has been great at just picking up the adjustments and understanding what we’re trying to do.”
The Jazz led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, but the Clippers were able to make the necessary adjustments during halftime to regain control. The Clippers went on a 17-0 run late in the third quarter, which allowed the team to get its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter. They never relinquished it.
Friday night’s game between the Clippers and Jazz was not only the largest comeback in a series-clinching win over the last 25 seasons, but the first time any team overcame a 20-plus point deficit to win in that span. According to ESPN, prior to Friday, the Jazz were 232-1 over the last 25 seasons when leading by 25 points.
A huge part of the Clippers’ historic comeback was Terance Mann.
The 24-year-old, who took over for injured Kawhi Leonard in the starting lineup, scored a career-high 39 points on 15 of 21 shooting from the field. Ten of Mann’s points were scored during the Clippers third-quarter run.
All but one of Mann’s made-free goals came from either the wings or deep in the paint.
Mann averaged just 7 points during the regular season and only scored a combined 25 points in Games 1-5 in the series against Utah — 13 of which were scored on Wednesday.
Paul George, who served as the Clippers’ second-leading scorer with 28 points, has been a fan of Mann for a while. And that’s not going to stop any time soon.
“You saw a full, complete game from a second-year player,” George said. “You saw him stretch the floor. You saw him defensively, you saw him rebound. You saw him muscle his way to the basket. You saw so many different things. He did it in the most crucial part of the game — I think that’s what’s most impressive. Honestly, he single-handedly willed us back through that stretch.”
While Mann’s performance may seem like it came out of nowhere, it was expected by not only the Clippers, but Mann himself.
Should Leonard sit out the remainder of the postseason, which seems likely, Mann has proven to be a worthy replacement for the All-Star.
“I trust my work,” Mann said. “When you trust in your work, you trust in yourself, you’re not surprised when any of this happens.”