The Clippers, though, are going to have to dig deeper than any other team in NBA history to get out of this hole against the Utah Jazz after falling 117-111 in Game 2 before a sellout crowd of 18,007 at Vivint Arena.
While the Clippers rebounded to beat the Dallas Mavericks in seven games after dropping the first two at home in the first round, no team has ever overcome multiple 2-0 deficits in the same postseason.
“We all got to put our will out on the floor,” Leonard said of what it will take for the Clippers to duplicate their first-round comeback. “You know, see what we did in the first two games and try to limit our mistakes and just keep going on from there pretty much.
“We’ll see [on Friday] what we got to do, and we’ve got a lot of fight left. So you know, we’re up for the challenge.”
The Clippers showed plenty of fight in Game 2 on Thursday night. They fell behind 76-55 with 9 minutes, 27 seconds remaining as the pro-Jazz crowd celebrated a 24-5 run that spanned from late in the second quarter to early in the third.
But Reggie Jackson drilled six of seven shots and scored 16 of his 29 points in the third quarter to lead a Clippers’ comeback.
Jackson buried back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Clippers led 101-99 with 6:37 left in the game. But like they have been for much of this postseason, the Clippers were streaky, and suddenly their shot deserted them.
The Clippers missed nine straight shots, including six from behind the arc, and Utah capitalized to go on a game-clinching 14-2 run.
Despite the results, coach Ty Lue said he was “very happy” with the shots the Clippers got during that game-deciding drought.
“I mean, what else can you get?” Lue said. “Four or five wide-open 3s, we just didn’t make. So we knew Rudy [Gobert] was going to help. We knew our shooters was going to be open, and we just got to step up and make shots, and we don’t. We just got good shots and we didn’t make them. Hopefully next game, they go down.”
Unlike in the last series in which the Clippers dropped the first two at home and then had to win Games 3 and 4 in Dallas to even the series, Lue’s team returns to Staples Center hoping to hold serve. If the Clippers don’t, they could return to Utah facing elimination or potentially not make it back at all.
The Clippers know top-seeded Utah is a better opponent than Dallas. But they still remain confident knowing that they have recovered from an 0-2 deficit just in the last series.
“We’ve got to give them credit,” said Paul George, who had 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. “This is a tough opponent. They weren’t No. 1 in the West for no reason. … But, you know, we are approaching this the same way Dallas was — we still feel we have a lot of possessions that we can clean up, a lot of possessions that are hurting us that’s our fault.”
The Clippers will also have to find a way to slow down Donovan Mitchell and Utah’s shooters. Mitchell has scored 45 points and 37 points in the first two games. And Utah buried 20 3-pointers in Game 2.
“As good as they are playing, as tough as this matchup is, we still feel like there’s moments throughout this game, this series, that, you know, we are making plays that are self-inflicted,” George said.
“It’s a lot of uphill. But we’re optimistic that we can get this under control and go back home, one game at a time, and try to tie this series up.”