Mann oh Mann, resilient Clippers come from 25 down to beat Jazz, advance to face Suns

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LOS ANGELES — Resiliency. Clippers.

Historically these words do not belong together. Not in the Danny Manning era. Not in the Elton Brand and Corey Maggette era. Not in the Lob City era when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had some of the best regular-season teams in the league but choked away their own 3-1 series lead. Certainly not last year, when the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Nuggets in maybe the most epic meltdown in the franchise’s long history of epic meltdowns. None of those teams reached the Western Conference Finals.

This year? Mann oh Mann, these Clippers have resiliency to spare.

And they had Terance Mann, the second-year, second-round draft pick who came out of nowhere these playoffs and went off for a career-high 39 in a close-out game — and he hit his biggest shots in the biggest of moments.

Without Kawhi Leonard, and down as many as 25 to the No. 1 team in the NBA in the third quarter, the Clippers showed that resiliency with a 17-0 run that morphed into a 40-12 run. A run aided by an uncharacteristic meltdown by the traditionally steady Jazz.

The Clippers had a full-capacity, rollicking Staples Center on its feet the entire second half, and with the momentum behind them nothing seemed to go wrong — Patrick Beverley was 3-of-4 from three in this game. It was a cathartic moment for Clippers fans who had been on the wrong end of too many games like this — not that there are games like this, it was the largest series-clinching comeback in 25 years.

The Clippers stormed back to beat the Jazz 131-119, winning the series 4-2 and advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in the franchise’s 50 year history.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is Sunday in Phoenix.

Word of advice to the Suns: Don’t let up if you get up 2-0 in the series, these resilient Clippers are 8-1 this postseason after going down 0-2. Clippers came back in the first round to knock off Luka Doncic and the Mavericks in 7, then finished off the Jazz in six.

“Get the W. That’s all that matters. Whether it’s pretty or ugly, we will take that,” Paul George said of the team’s focus in these comebacks. “Playoffs are about fighting, and we have shown time after time we would do that.”

The Jazz showed a lot of fight early, playing like a team with its back against the wall. Donovan Mitchell was attacking the rim, the Jazz moved the ball, and the threes were falling. Utah pulled away in the second quarter, winning it 39-19 behind a 21-point quarter from Jordan Clarkson. Mike Conley was back, and while he was a shadow of his All-Star self (1-of-8 shooting), he did play some solid defense at points, and he opened things up a little for Mitchell and Clarkson.

Utah led by 22 at the half, 72-50, and on the first play of the second half Donovan Mitchell drilled a three from the logo over a Clippers double-team.

“He hit that I thought ‘Man, he don’t wanna go home,'” Mann said after the game.

Past Clippers teams would have rolled over and everyone would be talking about the upcoming Game 7. Tyronn Lue’s Clippers are different — and the players, to a man, after Friday’s win credited Lue for his adjustments and mentality.

These Clippers are resilient — and they had Mann, who went off for 20 in the third. The Clippers’ ball handlers, Paul George and Reggie Jackson, starting playing downhill, and it opened everything up.

“In the first half, we didn’t touch the paint and we took bad shots,” Tyronn Lue said. “I told them, if we get in the paint, we know Rudy’s coming, and we can move the ball and get any shot we want.”

Los Angeles got seven shots at the rim in the third quarter, and when Gobert did start to come over it led to corner threes, and the suddenly hot Clippers hit 6-of-8 of those in the third.

Utah aided the Clipper’s comeback by falling apart. Jazz defenders couldn’t stay in front of their man, the defensive rotations were slow, they couldn’t hit a shot (8-of-21 in the third), and that led to the Clippers running on a porous Jazz transition defense.

Everything went right for the Clippers and wrong for the Jazz. Once Los Angeles had the momentum and a boisterous crowd behind them, the game was over.

In addition to Mann’s 39 — which included 7-of-10 from 3 — George had 28, and Reggie Jackson had 27 on 10-of-16 shooting.

Mitchell, clearly hobbling at the end on a hurting ankle, still had 39 points, plus nine rebounds and nine assists in a gutty performance. Clarkson and Royce O’Neal each had 21.

The Jazz head into an offseason that will lead to some soul searching. Clearly, the injuries to Conley and Mitchell impacted the series. Still, the team may need to reconsider a defensive system where Rudy Gobert is left to clean up the mess of mediocre perimeter defenders who can’t stay in front of their man — that’s fine in the regular season, but there comes a point in the playoffs where that’s not good enough anymore.

Meanwhile, the Clippers head into the next round. For the first time.

Heat, Tyler Herro agree to four-year, $120 million extension (with $10 million in incentives)

Miami Heat Media Day
Eric Espada/Getty Images
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Tyler Herro was frustrated — he saw players he felt he was better than getting paid.

Now he has a contract he will have to live up to.

The Heat have signed Herro to a four-year, $120 million extension of his rookie contract, with up to $10 million in incentives) a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and now confirmed by the team.

Herro went to Twitter to confirm the deal himself.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” Heat President Pat Riley said in the statement announcing the signing. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”

This is a straight four years, no options for either side.

Signing an extension takes Herro off the table for any trades to upgrade the Heat roster this season. Herro had been at the heart of the rumors about the Heat and Kevin Durant, as well as other teams.

Herro’s new contract extension is a big bet on the wing taking another step forward this season and beyond. The deal is a little larger than expected (the conventional wisdom had Herro coming in close to the $107 million RJ Barrett got with the Knicks). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel and I have discussed Herro’s price before and didn’t quite picture it this high, but with the rising cap over the next few years this deal may not look out of line.

Miami stepped up and paid the reigning Sixth Man of the Year high-level starter money — now he has to earn that job and that paycheck.

Mostly, he has to improve on defense so Eric Spoelstra can trust him at the end of games and deep into the playoffs (while Herro has had big playoff games, his role shrunk deeper in last postseason because of his defense).

Herro puts up numbers — 20.7 points a game on 39.9% from 3 last season — and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but does this new deal move him up in the Heat offensive pecking order with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler? Probably not in crunch time (and if Kyle Lowry bounces back this season, there could be games where Herro is option No.4).

This locks up part of Miami’s roster going into the season, but they are still on the look for depth at the four. Don’t consider this roster settled.

 

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
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It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

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The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

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SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.