For the second straight series in the 2021 NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers have come back from an 0-2 deficit, and are now tied with the first-seeded Utah Jazz heading to a pivotal Game 5 on Wednesday, June 16 (Thursday, June 17, Manila time).
While newly minted All-NBA First Team member Kawhi Leonard has settled a bit back to earth after nightly elite outings in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks, it is his All-NBA Third Team partner Paul George who has found fire at the right time.
Since dropping the first two games in Utah, “Playoff P” has blocked out the noise, and has averaged 31.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on 48% shooting and a whopping 50% from downtown in LA’s last two wins, both of which have been blowouts.
And now, it looks like the hot-shooting George will have to put the Clippers on his shoulders moving forward after Leonard has been declared out indefinitely due to a knee injury he suffered in Game 4.
Key cogs like Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, and Luke Kennard will now have to pick up the slack as one of their leaders once again battles with injuries that have hounded him throughout his career.
As for Jazz, their top priority right now to retrieve momentum is simply to get back All-Star point guard Mike Conley, who has been absent so far the entire series due to a hamstring strain similar to the Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden.
But like Harden who returned for a 46-minute marathon in a crucial Game 5 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, it seems that the Jazz floor general is also on his way back barring any setbacks.
This can help ease off a lot of pressure from fellow All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who has been carrying the team yet again this series with gaudy averages of 37.3 points on a 47% clip, and 45% from three, on top of 4.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
Utah’s other stalwarts like Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson can always be counted on to play to their strengths, and with Leonard’s absence, they need to capitalize on their production now more than ever.
Will Conley return in time to turn things around for the Jazz as Leonard sits, or will these lineup changes not even matter as the Clippers ride their momentum closer to their first-ever conference finals appearance?
Game time is 10 am on Thursday, June 17, Manila time.