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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – JUNE 16: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots against Donovan Mitchell #45 and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Utah Jazz in Game Five of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Vivint Smart Home Arena on June 16, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo : Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Clippers moved to within a victory of their first ever Western Conference Finals appearance after beating the Utah Jazz 119-111 in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series Wednesday night. Paul George starred for the Clippers who have now won each of their last three playoff games.
Heading into Game 5 of this series, momentum was definitely with the Clippers after protecting their home court in Games 3 and 4, recording an average winning margin of 20 points in those two games. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George not only terrorized the Jazz defenders when the series moved to Los Angeles, they also managed to devise a defensive scheme that have limited the offensive production of Utah star Donovan Mitchell.
No Kawhi, no problem for Clips as Playoff P takes charge
The Clippers, however, received terrible news hours before Game 5 as Leonard was ruled out because of a right knee sprain. He suffered the injury in the closing stages of Game 4 after he was fouled on a drive by Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic. Leonard’s right knee appeared to buckle slightly when he was bumped while dribbling into the lane. The Clippers’ record was 11-9 without Leonard during the regular season.
Fortunately for the LA Clippers, they still have another All-Star in their fold in Paul George. He stepped up big time in Game 5, scoring a game-high 37 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and dishing out five assists in a terrific all-around performance. He kept the game close in the first half, scoring 22 of his 37 points during that period. George also played terrific defense, holding the Jazz players that he defended to 4-of-13 shooting, forcing two turnovers and blocking two shots.
The Clippers were able to withstand a barrage of three-pointers by the Jazz in the opening two quarters. Utah shot a franchise-record 10 three-pointers in the first quarter with Bojan Bogdanovic going 6 of 7 from deep during that period. The Utah Jazz continued their assault in the second quarter, eventually finishing the half with 17 made three-pointers out of 30 attempts from beyond the arc.
Related Article: 2021 NBA Playoffs: Hawks Stun Sixers with 26-point rally in Game 5
Morris and Jackson provide support
It wasn’t just Paul George who starred in the offensive end for the Clippers. Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson provided the scoring boost for LA in the absence of Leonard, especially in the second half. Morris scored 12 of his 25 points in the third quarter which the Clippers won 32-18. Jackson, on the other hand, delivered the goods in the final frame, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to help the Clippers stave off the Jazz’s rally.
The pressure now is on the Jazz heading into Game 6 in Los Angeles, knowing a defeat there will end their once-promising season. The onus is on Donovan Mitchell to step up for Utah in Game 6. He has been clearly bothered by his ankle injury in this series, losing the explosiveness that has been the hallmark of his game. Mitchell had his lowest scoring output in this series in Game 5, notching just 21 points on 6 of 19 shooting from the field.
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