After falling behind 0-2 in the second round of the playoffs, the LA Clippers bounced back in a major way on Saturday night with a 132-106 rout of the Utah Jazz.
In what was one of their most complete showings of the postseason, LA dominated Utah in nearly every facet of the game. The Clippers won the rebound battle, recorded four fewer turnovers, out-shot the Jazz from three-point range, and, for the first time all series, had the game's leading scorer.
As a matter of fact, the Clippers had the two highest-scoring players in the game on their roster, as Kawhi Leonard (34 points) and Paul George (31 points) each had their best performances of the series thus far.
"It was a total team win," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. "Guys coming off the bench were great. PG and Kawhi really set the tone; PG early and Kawhi late, and that's what we need from our two best players to be able to do that and set the table for everyone else, and they did."
LA's stellar play didn't happen on just one end of the floor, either. The Clippers also had their best defensive showing of the series in Game 3, holding the Jazz to 106 points and allowing them to 42.9% shooting from the field. Outside of Donovan Mitchell, the Clippers did a relatively good job limiting Utah's primary scoring threats.
There are, of course, improvements that the Clippers can make moving forward in the series. Lue pointed to LA's lax coverage of Joe Ingles, who sank five three-pointers, as one of the reasons why they fell behind early in the first quarter. Reggie Jackson called attention to a few miscues and moments of miscommunication on defense. These are things the Clippers will need to correct ahead of Game 4.
For the most part, though, LA had a solid showing. It wasn't flawless, but it's hard to spend too much time complaining about a 26-point blowout.
As for some positive takeaways, let's take a look closer look at three things that really stood out from the effort.
A Tale of Two Halves
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 65 points in Game 3, which is by far their highest tally of the series. Leonard led the duo with 34 points, while George wasn't far behind with 31. In that regard, they had similar performances. How they each got there, though, was completely different.
The first half of Game 3 belonged to George, who scored 20 of his 31 points in the first two quarters. He was clearly feeling it early on and played a much more decisive game than we've grown accustomed to in this series, hoisting up a third of LA's field goal attempts in the first half.
It was the most aggressive that George had looked in some time. Rather than looking to set his teammates up and forcing the occasional pass, George had his mind set on scoring each time he went down the floor.
In contrast, Leonard had a quiet first half on offense, collecting 10 points, six rebounds and two assists through his first 20 minutes of action.
In the second half, the duo seemed to switch roles. George still got some good looks up and finished with 11 points over the final two quarters, but it was Leonard who took over the game, scoring 24 of his 34 points in his final 18 minutes.
Together, George and Leonard combined to shoot 26-48 from the field (7-16 from beyond the arc) and accounted for a little more than half of LA's field goal attempts on the night.
"We both understand we've got to be aggressive from this point on and do whatever it takes to win, and so you know, that's just a mentality we had to come out, get this team on the right start offensively and again just be aggressive," George said after the game. "That's just what it's going to come down to for us."
The Importance of Reggie Jackson
Outside of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, no player has been as important to the LA Clippers' success as Reggie Jackson. The veteran guard played with such a high level of confidence and control in the first round, and he's carried that into LA's series with the Utah Jazz as well.
Through Game 3, Jackson is averaging 18.3 points and 2.7 assists per game and shooting an absurd 63.2% from three-point range. In 10 appearances this postseason, he's scoring 16.3 points per game and hitting 45.3% of his looks from deep.
Tyronn Lue had high praise for Jackson after Game 3, calling attention to his professionalism and fearlessness.
"He's not afraid of the moment," Lue said. "He's not afraid of the big moment. He wants that. Tonight he wanted to guard Donovan Mitchell. He wants those opportunities to be on the big stage... If we didn't have him in the first round against Dallas, I don't think we could have won."
From being out of the rotation at the start of the season to now, Jackson has clearly come a long way. His energy and high-level play have clearly been difference-makers for this team.
Another 0-2 Comeback?
The LA Clippers fought an uphill battle in the first round, coming back from an 0-2 series deficit to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in seven games. In that matchup, the tides seemed to turn in favor of the Clippers in Game 3, when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard combined for 65 points in a 118-108 win — the same number of points they scored on Saturday night.
No team has ever come back from an 0-2 deficit more than once in the same playoffs, but as it stands, momentum clearly favors the Clippers in their current series with the Utah Jazz. Getting a win in Game 4 will be crucial, but based on their performance in Game 3, LA will be favored to do so.
There's reason to believe this isn't a fluke, too. This Clippers team was exceptionally resilient throughout the regular season and often bounced back from losses/losing streaks in big ways.
One example, for instance: When the Clippers suffered three losses in a row heading into the All-Star break, they went on to win 19 of their next 24 games — a streak that included two different winning streaks of six games or more.
The Clippers certainly have the right cast to recover from another 0-2 deficit, and so long as they can continue to match the level of urgency and aggression they showed in Game 3, it wouldn't come as a huge surprise if they're able to pull it off.