It will be winner take all, loser go home in Game 7 showdown for Clippers and Jazz
They live for another day, a day of reckoning for these Clippers, a day that will decide which direction the winner-take-all Game 7 will take them.
Truth be told, it has always been in the Clippers’ hands to decide their fate in the Western Conference first-round series against the equally determined Utah Jazz.
After the Clippers saved their season with a 98-93 victory in Game 6 Friday night at Salt Lake City to even the series at 3-3, they have a chance to extend their playoff lives Sunday afternoon at Staples Center in the final installment of the best-of-seven series.
“Any time you can go on the road and force a Game 7, it can be a galvanizing thing for sure,” J.J. Redick said late Friday night outside of a joyous Clippers locker room at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The winner on Sunday will advance to the second round to meet the Golden State Warriors starting Tuesday night in Oakland.
But first things first, and that’s dealing with the high stakes in front of the Clippers.
Two years ago they played in two Game 7s, one working out very well, the other not so much.
Under similar circumstances in 2015, the Clippers went to San Antonio down 3-2 in a first-round series. They won Game 6 and came home and won Game 7 behind the brilliance of Chris Paul.
But in the second round against the Houston Rockets, the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead and lost Game 7 on the road.
The point is that the Clippers have been in this position before and know how intense it is to play in a Game 7.
The first six games were tense, competitive and hung in the balance until the very end. The average margin of victory was 5.2 points, with the largest being eight points.
The Clippers have averaged 98.8 points per game in the series and the Jazz 98.0.
“It’s going to be highly competitive,” guard Austin Rivers said Friday night. “We know what we need to do and we’re ready to do it.”
As Jamal Crawford sat at his locker stall late Friday night, a smile on his face, all he could do was shake his head at how close these teams have played each other.
“This is my fourth seventh game,” Crawford said. “They are unbelievable. It’s fun. You know how they use the slogan, ‘Win or go home.’ It’s really win or go home. It’s fun. It’s like a high school tournament, when you lose you go home. That’s it. Win or go home.”
Clippers guard J.J. Redick protects the ball from the reach of Jazz forward Joe Ingles during the first half.(Gene Sweeney Jr. / Getty Images)
Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute and Jazz forward Joe Ingles battle for a rebound during the first half.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) drives around Jazz forward Boris Diaw (on knee) and guard George Hill during the first half.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Jazz center Rudy Gobert powers his way to the basket against Clippers center DeAndre Jordan during the first half.(Gene Sweeney Jr. / Getty Images)
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford looks to pass after recovering a loose ball during the second half.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) loses control of the the ball as he’s defended by Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute, left, and guard Chris Paul during the second half.(Gene Sweeney Jr. / Getty Images)
Clippers guards Austin Rivers (25) and Raymond Felton celebrate after a key basket late in the game against the Jazz.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford receives congratulations from Clippers coach Doc Rivers near the end of Game 6.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Coach Doc Rivers acknowledges some Clippers fans as he heads off the court after the Game 6 win over the Jazz.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
The Clippers and Jazz have been eyeing each other all season, and now in the postseason.
Both finished the regular season with 51-31 records. They are 3-3 in this series, the Clippers winning twice in Salt Lake City and the Jazz twice in Los Angeles.
“It’s going to be a physical game just like the rest of them,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said Friday night. “We have to be better defensively, especially in pick-and-roll situations. [We gave up] too many easy looks for them at the rim [in Game 6] or jump shots that are workout shots, and I think we can clean that up. But at this point and time, we know what they’re going to run and they know what we’re going to run. It’s about execution. It’s about who wants it more. So we’ve got to be the team that wants it more.”