It’s late, I’m tired, yet can’t sleep because I’m not sure what I just saw was real. Terance Mann, the Clippers' No. 13, had a game for the ages when the second-year wing scored a career-high 39 points in a 131-119 win at Staples Center.
Here are 13 incredible facts about the Clippers’ 25-point comeback to advance to the Western Conference finals, which start on Sunday against the Suns in Phoenix:
1) This was the Freaky Friday version of Game 6 between the Houston Rockets and the Clippers from 2015. In that game, with the Clippers on the cusp of advancing, Houston trailed by 19 before Corey Brewer and Josh Smith (and not James Harden) brought Houston back from the dead.
This was the opposite. With the Clippers down by 25 points early in the third quarter Friday, it was another role player’s turn to flip that script — Mann's. He scored 20 points in the third quarter — more than he had in all but four of his previous professional games — and his 39 points were just 60 fewer than he scored during his rookie season.
2) Speaking of opposites, if I told you a team blew a series lead, was the victim of some rotten luck and had some off-court controversy when a former player said something despicable, you’d have every historical reason to think I was talking about the Clippers. Well, not this time. Check out John Stockton.
3) Back to Mann, just an incredible performance. He made the first shot of the game, a corner three that Utah was OK with giving him. And as he kept getting open looks and kept taking them, you could see his swagger. After every big shot in the second half, he either had some words for the Jazz or a huge smile for the fans courtside.
4) Oh, he banged on Rudy Gobert. Again.
5) Mann’s shooting carried the Clippers in the first quarter when Donovan Mitchell was nuclear and in the third when the Clippers stormed back into the game. With each make, you could see Gobert inch closer out the second-year wing, and that opened up more space for the Clippers to drive.
No one took more advantage of it than Reggie Jackson, who challenged Gobert at the rim multiples times and won each battle. After one basket, he flexed. Somehow, he was stronger.
6) The Jazz led by 25 points when Mitchell sank an absolute bomb to bail the Jazz out of a possession to start the second half.
After that made shot, the Clippers outscored Utah 81-44.
7) Somehow, someway the Clippers managed nearly identical third and fourth quarters, shooting 71.4% on 15-of-21 shooting — they went seven of 10 from three in the third and seven of nine in the fourth.
8) While the Clippers' shooting was hot — like, insanely hot, in the second half — it was their defense that stole them this game. They forced 11 Utah turnovers in the second half and turned that into 21 points. The Jazz scored only two points off four Clippers turnovers after halftime.
9) Credit to Tyronn Lue from turning away from Rajon Rondo and cutting him out of his second-half rotation. Lue hasn’t been afraid to sit proud, intense veterans when it's been necessary (he did it with Patrick Beverley in the first round). I asked Paul George how the Clippers managed to survive a pair of 2-0 deficits in the playoffs. And George simply said, “T. Lue.”
10) The Jazz shot the ball so well in this series and somehow it wasn’t enough. Since the introduction of the three-point line, only 12 games have been lost in the postseason by teams making at least 19 three-point shots.
Utah lost three of those 12 in the last week.
11) Beverley made all three of his threes in the fourth quarter, just back-breaking shots against a Utah team that continued to leave him open
After the game, Beverley, who knows what the Clippers have been through, was emotional.
“Special,” he said, repeating the word over and over again. “(From) celebrating just to get in the playoffs, seeing a lot of people come and go, a lot of friends, and to be with an organization like this, to finish a game like this, to make history, is special, man. Because I, you know, blood, sweat and tears into this s—, injuries, friends getting traded, ups and downs of basketball — to be the last man standing and kind of write history is special, man. Very special.”
12) After torching the Clippers in the second quarter, Jordan Clarkson didn’t score in the second half. And the Clippers slowed down Mitchell, though he clearly wasn’t close to 100%. He averaged nearly 35 points a game in the series, and hit some incredibly tough shots.
Salute to him and Mike Conley, who gutted his way through a hamstring injury, for being on the court Friday.
13) A quick note on George, one of the easiest punching bags in the NBA. With Kawhi Leonard out, George stepped up huge in two of the franchise’s biggest wins to date, playing with aggression and poise, with urgency and with calm.
He was a leader on both sides of the court, delivering two true superstar performances.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.