Kawhi Leonard has the biggest hands in the game and his fingerprints are somehow missing in this series and in most of the playoffs.
Paul George has every reason to embark on a redemption playoff given what happened to him last year – and the year before, and the year before – but he hasn’t hit the stage yet and it’s late and anxious people.
The Clippers lag 0-2 to the Jazz in the second round, just as they did with the Mavericks earlier, and much of this is due to another 0-2: their stars, in the second series in a row, lag behind the other star on the other team.
Donovan Mitchell follows Luka Doncic into being a problem for the Clippers, brings them together in Game 1 for the Jazz and then returns Thursday with an almost stellar performance in Utah 117-11 win over. This in itself is somewhat understandable. In his short time in the NBA, Mitchell has established himself as a brown-haired player for the spring and summer, when the lights come on and his team longs for a savior.
Same for Doncic; His style of play, competitive nature and toughness lend themselves to another level of basketball, motivating him to get up right along with the risks at this time of year.
But shouldn’t the Clippers get the same chest-hitting results from Leonard and George, who are supposed to be the difference makers, and are required to take big shots in moments of stress instead of the likes of Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris and…Patrick Beverly?
Kohi and BJ It wasn’t a bad Thursday; They weren’t great. Kleber was not the best player on earth. Neither of them had what could be described as a wow moment. Neither of them was a factor in the last few minutes and certainly not the result, the defeat that put the Clippers on another hole to start a streak.
Bojan Bogdanovic defended Leonard defiantly, stripping him once in a revealing layover late in the fourth inning, and keeping mostly MVP in the previous two finals when it mattered. The numbers would indicate Leonard’s 21 points, but no one could remember any loud screams. Plus he had three transformations and at times seemed out of sync.
For a player who has been managing his load throughout this compact season, Kohi has played with only a day’s rest between matches since May 28. Is it fair to ask if this “snowstorm” of the timeline is chasing after him?
At least he had 45 and 41 points in the previous round. George, on the other hand, is still waiting for the signature and extension game. You could make the argument that Leonard is forced to carry more than his share of the payload that is designed to be handled equally between the two.
Instead, George has had his second straight shootout, and in the third straight playoffs he is particularly struggling to find consistency from depth, and a connection of just 32% in the postseason.
Again: As a duo, Kouhi and George didn’t really explode; They just haven’t matched the intensity, impact and pop like Doncic in the first round or Mitchell yet in the second.
Mitchell had at one point outperformed the Clipper duo by 72-66 during the first six quarters of the series, and in the two games combined he has just nine points less. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Mitchell made plays, the kind that would take out his teammates, flip the sound inside the home ring, and blow the wind out of the other team.
Mitchell was the league’s most prolific scorer of the year Sharing two seasons togetherAnd, remarkably, he finished hard on a sore ankle in the second game. When he wasn’t penalizing the Clippers, his supporting team always seemed to answer with a 3-pointer in time whenever Los Angeles mustered enough energy to tighten the score.
That’s what a major playoff player is supposed to do, but in these Clippers playoffs, barring a pair of strong Kawhi efforts, this player has been on the other team through nine games so far.
Doubts about George will only intensify for the rest of this series. If you remember, the cause of his playoff problems three years ago can be traced back to Utah, when he and Oklahoma City lost six games to the same jazz franchise. The following year, Damien Lillard’s basket-winning epic streak came on George along with a sarcastic wave of farewell. Then last season, when George played poorly during the playoffs and came out blank in Game 7 against the Nuggets, the noise from the audience directed at him was deafening.
But basketball is funny sometimes. Narratives, perceptions, and reputations can suddenly be overturned if someone takes a sledgehammer. Kohi and George still have the luxury of time. Another game is coming to create a completely different conversation.
Those two couldn’t stop the Clippers from falling 0-2 again. In order to equalize, they’ll need to do what Mitchell does with the Jazz Clippers. It’s certainly possible, and at this point, given the sudden sensitivity of the situation they’re in, do they have any other choice?
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