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


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.

Clippers’ Paul George out at least 2-3 weeks with sprained knee

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

Clippers’ All-Star forward Paul George will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks after an MRI confined a sprained knee, the team announced on Wednesday. That likely means George is out for the rest of the regular season.

It looked a lot worse when it happened (and it is possible George will be out longer than a few weeks). George was injured with 4:38 left in the Thunder’s win over the Clippers Tuesday night. George had after a collision with Lu Dort when both were for a rebound, Dort was called for a foul on the play.

George is critical for the Clippers, who sit as the No.5 seed in the West, just a game back of Phoenix at No.4 but also 2.5 games from falling out of the playoffs entirely in a crowded bottom half of the bracket. George is averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game this season, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The most likely outcome is the Clippers sit George for the rest of the regular season and if, if they can hold on to a top-six seed, that would mean he would have until April 15-16 before the Clippers would have their first postseason game. The question is will that be enough time to get George back on the court?

Karl-Anthony Towns set to make return to Timberwolves Wednesday

Washington Wizards v Minnesota Timberwolves
David Berding/Getty Images

It was Nov. 28 — 51 games ago — the last time Karl-Anthony Towns stepped on the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That changes tonight against the Hawks, according to multiple reports, plus Towns himself said he will make his return to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

“I’m super excited to get back out on the court and help my team because these next nine games are super important,” Towns said…

“I’m just trying to pick up where I left off,” Towns said. “I was telling my dad right before I got hurt, I felt the most complete as a player in my career. From defensive end, from offensive end, from a mental aspect, leadership aspect … I felt very complete.”

The Timberwolves sit ninth in the West, in the middle of a crowded bottom of the conference where they are just a game out of the No.6 seed but also half a game away from falling out of the play-in and missing the postseason entirely. The Timberwolves need wins, and adding an elite offensive player such as Towns should help with that (as would getting Anthony Edwards back from his sprained ankle, which could happen tonight but, if not, is expected soon).

Towns suffered a calf injury just after Thanksgiving that was expected to keep him out for 4-6 weeks. However, a January setback extended that recovery to 51 games. Towns averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game this season before the injury.

However, his fit in those early games with Rudy Gobert (acquired over the summer), Edwards and D'Angelo Russell was clunky. Town’s efficiency was down (32.8% from 3) and the offense had a “your turn then my turn” feel. That offense has started to find a better groove recently with Edwards taking on a larger ball-handling role, then Russell being for Mike Conley (more of a traditional, floor general point guard) — the Minnesota offense in March was 4.8 points per 100 possessions better than it was in November.

How will injecting Towns back into that mix help the offense? How will it impact the defense? Unfortunately, coach Chris Finch and company don’t have time to experiment much and play around with lineup combinations, they need wins and they need them now to make the postseason.

Still, it’s good to have Towns back on the court.


Three things to Know: Win over Clippers shows Thunder future may be now


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Win over Clippers shows Thunder’s future may be now

If the playoffs started today, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the No.7 seed in the West, only needing to win one of two play-in games — at home — to advance to the playoffs. They are only half a game back of the defending champion Golden State Warriors for the No.6 seed and not having to worry about the play-in.

The basketball world has talked about anything but the Thunder: When will those Warriors flip the switch? What happens when Dallas gets Luka Dončić back (or if the Mavs defend a little)? What will the Timberwolves look like when whole? When will LeBron James return and how big a threat are the Lakers?

Meanwhile, the Thunder quietly have been winning — 8-of-10 after beating the Clippers on Tuesday night 101-100, behind 31 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder have been solid all season — top half of the league in offense and defense, and the 10th-best net rating in the league — despite Chet Holmgren missing the year. SGA playing at an All-NBA level is a huge part of it, but Josh Giddey has developed into an impressive secondary shot creator averaging 16.2 points a night, Jalen Williams will be first-team All-Rookie because of his play, guys like Isaiah Joe and Tre Mann have stopped up, and Lu Dort is doing things like locking down Kawhi Leonard on the final play of the game to preserve the win.

OKC’s one-point win over the Clippers was aided by Kawhi Leonard getting a tight technical called on him, and when Terrence Mann complained about that call he got him ejected. Leonard said after the game the referee admitted he missed the foul call on the play where the technicals were handed out.

However, far more frightening for the Clippers than the loss was the injury to Paul George in the final minutes, a fluke collision with Dort that sent George to the ground and having to be helped back to the locker room. There are no details, but it didn’t look good.

It’s all more questions and injuries for the Clippers.

Meanwhile, the Thunder just keep on rolling and look every bit a playoff team ahead of schedule — and with a lot of draft picks coming in the next few years to stockpile that roster.

2) Knicks legend, Hall of Fame Willis Reed dies

Willis Reed is associated with one of the most iconic moments in NBA history — his dramatic entrance in Madison Square Garden minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. He scored only four points and was clearly in pain and hobbled, but playing even a little sparked the Knicks to blow out the Lakers and win the franchise’s first title.

Reed passed away at the age of 80.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed won a second ring with the Knicks in 1973 and was a two-time Finals MVP and seven-time All-Star.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.

3) Celtics get Robert Williams back, look like Celtics in win over Kings

Robert Williams was back on the court for the Celtics Tuesday night and the Celtics held the Kings and their best offense in the league to an offensive rating almost seven points below their league average. That is not a coincidence.

With Williams back, the Celtics were back to switching everything, which slowed the motion and passing of the Kings’ offense enough to earn the 132-109 Boston win. The 36 points from Jayson Tatum helped with that.

For the Kings, it was their fifth game in seven nights in four different time zones and it showed. Still, that loss dropped the Kings 1.5 back of the Grizzlies for the two seed in the West (and the Grizzlies may get Ja Morant back Wednesday).

Boston went 4-2 on their recent road trip. While they have slumped in recent weeks, they looked like their contending selves again with Williams back, who had missed the last eight games with a hamstring issue. He played 21 minutes off the bench.

Nobody should have written Boston off after this recent slide, even if those losses did make their path through the East rougher.

Bonus thing to know: Donovan Mitchell threw down a Dunk of the Year candidate in the Cavaliers’ win.

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


UPDATE: The Clippers announced that Paul George will be out 2-3 weeks after an MRI revealed a sprained right knee. That likely keeps him out through the rest of the regular season, but he could return for the playoffs.


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.