Los Angeles, CA —When five-time All Star Kawhi Leonard went down, Terrance Mann knew he had to step up and try to fill the void.
The 24-year-old from Massachusetts, picked a right time – Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals – to have the game of his life, scoring a career-high 39 points as he led the Clippers to their best playoff result in franchise history (so far).
He was a four-year player at Florida State, the 48th pick overall in the 2019 draft, the young man earning an NBA salary of $1,782,621 this season. It looks like that pick sure paid off.
Mann’s trey deep in the corner with 5:33 left capped his scoring tally and pushed the Clippers’ lead to 10 points and put the icing on the cake.
Terance Mann Game – a 131-119 victory over the top-seeded Utah Jazz closed out the best-of-seven series.
The win – the Clippers’ fourth in a row – solidified a place in the conference finals for the first time in the franchise’s 51 years of existence. Another note, the LA Clippers now are the first team to come back from a 2-0 series deficits twice in the same postseason.
“Man, it feels great to close out here,” Mann said minutes after the game.
“They wrote us off when Kawhi (Leonard) went down. Everybody had to step up, we knew we had to step up in his loss. We extend our prayers to him, and hopefully, he gets healthy. We got to continue on. He carried us up until this point, I look forward to the challenge to carry us even further.”
Jordan Clarkson got hot in the second quarter, single-handedly outscoring his former team, 21-19.
After he was fouled – on a 3-point attempt, Clarkson made all three free throws from the charity stripe and made his next six shots. He turned the Utah’s lean 43-40 advantage into a 60-42 lead. After the Jazz outscored the LA Clippers 39-19 in the second quarter, it took a 72-50 lead into the break.
“Just the whole night was special,” said Paul George. To be able to be in this arena and to feel that playoff atmosphere in front of my hometown, my friends, my family. So many important people in my life are in this building, and so it was just a special night, a special night.”
Coming to the game, the Jazz were 232-1 over the past 25 seasons when leading by 25 or more points.
Mann was in attack after the break, he scored 25 of his points – matching what had been his career-high in that half alone. He finished 15 for 21 from the hardwood and 7 for 10 from downtown, becoming the third player in franchise history to make as many as seven treys in a playoff game and the first to score 20 points in a quarter (the third).
His game was contagious teammate, Reggie Jackson scored 27 points and 10 assists, Nicolas Batum chipped in 16 points and seven boards and Patrick Beverley had 12 points and three steals.
Donovan Mitchell opened the second half with a 33-foot, 3-pointer to give Utah a 75-50 lead 24 seconds into the third quarter. It was 88-67 with 6:37 remaining when the Clippers fought their way back by going on a 21-2 run to get within a basket with 1:42 remaining with 10 points from Mann and Jackson scoring nine.
“When Mitchell hit that 3-pointer, I was thinking that we didn’t want to go home,” Mann said. “I had a lot to do. They left me open and I hit my shots. The offense is going to take care of itself if you are confident in your game.”
The Clippers were 30 of 42 from the field (71.4%) after the break, including a 14-for-19 mark from downtown, and Mann was the catalyst of it all.
The Jazz had a 94-91 lead going into the final 12 minutes, but Jackson gave the Clippers their first lead since early in the second quarter when his layup made it 96-95 with 10:36 remaining.
The Clippers had a 107-106 lead with eight minutes remaining in the contest before they seized control with nine straight points, including five by Mann. The closest the Jazz would get after that was six points.
Mitchell led the top-seeded Jazz with 39 points. It is the second time in franchise history the Jazz have blown a 25-point lead in a postseason game.
Royce O’Neale added 21 for Utah. They had the NBA’s top regular-season record but lost four straight for the first time all year.
“You saw a full, complete game from a second-year player,” George said. “I mean, you saw him stretch the floor. You saw him defensively. You saw him rebound. You saw him muscle his way to the basket.
“You just saw so many flashes of 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 where he just – 3 after 3 to downhill attacks to defending.
“He did it all.”