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Clippers make history with Terance Mann leading win over Jazz

Clippers guard Terance Mann scores on a breakaway against Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell .
Clippers guard Terance Mann scores on a breakaway against Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell during Game 6 on Friday night at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Not this time, not this team.

The Clippers have never been here — no matter that “here” isn’t the goal. It’s on the way, a level they’ve never reached, an accomplishment they’ve never achieved.

The Clippers are eight wins away from their first NBA title. They’re four wins away from their first NBA Finals appearance, from their first conference championship.

And they did it by completely turning the tables on their tragic history, this time by being the team that delivered the epic comeback from epicly unlikely sources, leaving the Utah Jazz stunned and heartbroken.

For the second straight round of the playoffs, the Clippers have fought from their backs, shedding the frontrunner image cultivated by their recent round of failures, to be the tougher team, the one with more fight and with more grit.

Staples Center had a capacity crowd Friday night for the first time since the pandemic began as fans rooted the Clippers to a historic win over the Utah Jazz.

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Just like they outlasted the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic in the first round after falling behind 2-0, they eliminated the top-seeded Jazz after facing the same two-game deficit, capping that turnaround with a 131-119 win in front of Los Angeles’ biggest NBA crowd since the pandemic shut down sports in March 2020.

“You felt the monkey getting off the Clippers’ back,” said Paul George, who scored 28 points.

In the final moments, Jerry West, the Clippers executive and league icon, paced with his hands in his blue suit pockets and shook his head. And for a reminder of just how weird this all was, he did with a white protective mask over his face, the fabric swelling in and out with each deep breath.

At least for now, their history is less important than their future, which begins Sunday against the Suns in Phoenix.

Highlights from the Clippers’ 131-119 win over the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals.

The Clippers erased a 25-point Utah lead in the second half by outscoring the Jazz almost 2-to-1 for most of the third quarter

Momentum in these playoffs has swung wildly, like a rubber band that gets snapped. It happened suddenly and fiercely Friday, the Jazz throttling the Clippers before the Clippers could roar right back.

First it was Donovan Mitchell, who scored 39 points. That made sense; he’s been as lethal as any scorer this postseason. So did Jordan Clarkson’s 21-point, second-quarter barrage; he’s the NBA’s sixth man of the year and a player as flammable on the court as a barrel of kerosene.

And then there was … Terance Mann?

“Just play my game. Shoot the open shots,” Mann said. “I trust my work.”

A franchise that seemingly has been cursed for most of its existence underwent a transformation in Friday’s playoff series victory over the Utah Jazz.

The second-year wing, starting for the injured Kawhi Leonard, scored 20 points in the third quarter — more than he’s scored in all but four of the 133 games he’s played in the NBA before Friday. He dunked on the defensive player of the year. And he held his hands in the air, soaking in the adulation of the packed house, after he walked off the floor.

It was the latest twist in a wild postseason full of injuries and comebacks and collapses and whiplashes, the Clippers and the Jazz playing an all-timer in front of a capacity Staples Center.

“That’s basketball. Right now, right here, being at home, great game, two great teams,” Nicolas Batum said. “House was packed. That was amazing. I missed that. We all missed that. …That’s why we play this game.”

No matter how the Clippers managed to make the Western Conference finals, it would be a little bit incredible. Doing it this way? It’s absolutely special.

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley reacts after making a three-pointer against the Jazz.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley reacts after making a three-pointer against the Jazz late in Game 6 on Friday night at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Mann scored a career-best 39 points. Reggie Jackson scored 27.

No player has received more of a chance with Leonard down than Mann, tabbed by coach Tyronn Lue to replace the All-NBA forward in the starting lineup.

Emboldened by Lue’s and the Clippers’ insistence that he shoot when open, Mann calmly drained a pair of three-pointers in the game’s first few minutes and then sent the full crowd into ecstasy with a one-handed putback slam directly on top of Rudy Gobert’s head, just like he did in Game 5.

“You just saw so many flashes of so many different things,” George said. “Honestly, he single-handedly willed us back.”

Clippers-Suns finals schedule
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

Utah led by 22 at the half and the lead ballooned to 25 before the Clippers furiously came back into the game. It was Mann’s 20-point quarter that led the way, him smiling to the crowd after he swished yet another corner three.

The Jazz didn’t quit. But the Clippers didn’t fold — just like they didn’t when they trailed Dallas 2-0.

“The whole night was special,” George said.

Another collapse might have happened in the past. But as the final horn sounded and the players celebrated, it’s important to remember that all of that was then.

This, the Clippers in the conference finals, is now.

Clippers fans celebrate at Staples Center after their curse-breaking 131-119 defeat of the Utah Jazz on June 18, 2021.


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