It took seven games, six of which were won by the road team, but the Los Angeles Clippers finally took down the Luka Doncic-led Dallas Mavericks in do-or-die fashion to book the last ticket to the second round of the 2021 NBA playoffs.
While he may have gone a bit under the radar due to Doncic’s huge carry jobs, Kawhi Leonard was a man possessed throughout the entire series, and averaged 32.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.0 block on an absurd 61% shooting clip.
This marked the first time in NBA history that a player averaged at least 30 points and 60% shooting in a playoff series since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, but Leonard did his damage from way further out from the basket.
What’s scarier about this run is that Leonard still has a lot of help around him in the form of All-Star Paul George, sharpshooting bruiser Marcus Morris, and resurgent guard Reggie Jackson.
But, if there is a team right now in the Western Conference that can contend with the Clippers in terms of talent and depth, that’s the well-rested first seed Utah Jazz.
Fresh off a month-long ankle injury, All-Star Donovan Mitchell got right to work, and averaged 28.5 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.0 rebounds to help eliminate the upstart Memphis Grizzlies.
Fellow All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley also did major damage on both ends of the court, while Fil-Am Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson produced, as expected, when his number was called.
The Jazz’s talent pool doesn’t end there, as Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and Derrick Favors are also healthy and ready to take Utah back to its first finals since 1998.
But without a doubt, the bigger chip lies on the shoulders of the Clippers, who are still burdened by a 37-year-long “curse” of not making it past the second round.
Last year in the bubble, they breathed life to the “curse” in spectacular fashion, and blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets, ending with an embarrassing Game 7 blowout loss.
Today, the West is wide open for the taking with all past contenders now watching from home like the LA Lakers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs. There is no better time to erase past history, and write a new chapter for a brighter future.
Will the Clippers finally cease to be the laughingstock of the West, or will the Jazz reach heights not seen since the legendary days of John Stockton and Karl Malone?
Game time is 10 am, Wednesday, June 9, Philippine time.