Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale, center, pats guard Donovan Mitchell, right, on the head as guard Mike Conley walks away in the closing minutes during the second half in Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers Friday, June 18, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Terance Mann scored a career-high 39 points and the Los Angeles Clippers advanced to a conference final for the first time in the franchise’s 51-year history, beating the Utah Jazz 131-119 on Friday night.
“The cheers, the excitement, you felt the monkey off of the Clippers back as far as getting past the second round,” said Paul George, who had 28 points. “The playoffs are about grit and fighting back. Time after time we have shown that.”
Reggie Jackson added 25 points for the Clippers, who faced a 25-point deficit early in the third quarter before rallying. It is the largest comeback by a team in a series-clinching win over the last 25 seasons.
It is the second straight series Los Angeles has dropped the first two games and come back to advance. The fourth-seeded Clippers will face second-seeded Phoenix in the Western Conference finals. Game 1 is Sunday in Phoenix.
The Clippers won the final two games against the Jazz with All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard sidelined by a sprained right knee. The close-out victory was viewed by 17,105 at Staples Center, marking the first time in 15 months the Clippers had played in front of a full house after California eased COVID-19 safety restrictions on Tuesday.
Mann helped fuel the rally with 20 points in the third quarter. Utah had a 94-91 lead going into the final 12 minutes, but Jackson gave the Clippers their first lead since early in the second quarter when his layup made it 96-95 with 10:36 remaining.
Mann — who was 15 of 21 from the field — also was just the third player in franchise history to make at least seven 3s in a postseason game.
The Clippers had a 107-106 lead with eight minutes remaining before they seized control with nine straight points, including five by Mann. The closest the Jazz would get after that was six.
Donovan Mitchell led top-seeded Utah with 39 points. It is the second time in franchise history the Jazz have blown a 25-point lead in a postseason game.
Royce O’Neale added 21 for the Jazz. They had the NBA’s top regular-season record but lost four straight for the first time all year.
“I think our inefficiency early on in the third quarter turning the ball over, that led to a lot of baskets. And obviously in the half court they spaced us and moved it and had us on our heels,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.
Mitchell opened the second half with a 33-foot, step back 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 75-50 lead 24 seconds into the third quarter. It was 88-67 with 6:37 remaining when LA fought its way back by going on a 21-2 run to get within a basket with 1:42 remaining with 10 points from Mann and Jackson scoring nine.
“When Mitchell hit that 3-pointer, I was thinking that we didn’t want to go home,” Mann said. “I had a lot to do. They left me open and I hit my shots. The offense is going to take care of itself if you are confident in your game.”
A dunk by O’Neale and Mitchell’s pair of free throws pushed Utah’s lead back up to six, but Jackson’s 3-pointer’s with 11.1 seconds remaining cut the advantage in half heading into the fourth quarter.
The first half saw 12 lead changes. Rajon Rondo’s layup with 9:17 remaining in the second quarter gave LA a 41-40 lead before Utah outscored the Clippers 33-10 the remainder of the half to take a 72-50 advantage at the break.
The Jazz went on a 21-2 run that included 17 straight points by Clarkson, including a pair of 3-pointers.
INSIDE THE SECOND HALF
The Clippers were 30 of 42 from the field in the third and fourth quarters, including 14 of 19 from beyond the arc as they outscored the Jazz 81-47.
Utah was 12 of 19 on 3-pointers in the first half but 9 of 25 in the second.
Jazz: Jordan Clarkson had all 21 of his points in the second quarter. … Mike Conley was back in the lineup after missing five games due to a right hamstring strain and scored five points in 26 minutes. …. Mitchell scored 16 in the first quarter. It is the fourth time this postseason he has 12 or more in the first 12 minutes.
Clippers: Since 1997, Mann is the only player in franchise history to score 20 or more points in a single quarter in a postseason game. … Jackson had a season-high 10 assists