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Five big takeaways from Game 3 of Jazz-Clippers

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Facing the possibility of going down 3-0 to the top-seeded Utah Jazz, the fourth-seeded LA Clippers played their best basketball of the series on Saturday in a 132-106 win in Game 3.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the way for the Clippers, as both stars eclipsed the 30-point mark in the postseason for the second time in their careers as teammates. LA is now 2-0 in those games. Donovan Mitchell had a team-high 30 points for the Jazz, his 14th career 30-point game in just 30 postseason contests, but exited midway through the fourth quarter after aggravating an ankle injury.

Can the Clippers keep it rolling in Game 4? Will the Jazz have a healthy backcourt to employ on Monday? Here are five things we gleaned from Game 3.

MORE: Matchups, schedules and full NBA playoffs coverage

Playoff P showed up on Saturday

Over the past several years, no one has taken more abuse for their playoff failures than Paul George. Time after time, he and his teams have fallen flat in the postseason, and George’s play — and his words — have been dissected to an endless degree.

Saturday night, though, was a reminder of why the Clippers went through the trouble to pair George with Kawhi Leonard two years ago — and why Leonard himself wanted to play alongside him.

George finished Game 3 with 31 points and five assists while going 6-for-10 from 3-point range — the kind of efficient offensive performance the Clippers desperately needed to get themselves back into this Western Conference semifinal, and one George needed to try and change the impression the basketball world has of him.

It’s been forgotten that, during his time with the Indiana Pacers, George had some massive playoff moments. But those have been overshadowed by the failures since then — from the first-round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, when Damian Lillard ended the series with a bomb over him from nearly half court, to last year’s collapse against the Denver Nuggets, when George fired a 3-pointer off the side of the backboard during the Clippers’ Game 7 loss. His “Playoff P” moniker has become the subject of an endless series of jokes as a result.

If he and the Clippers can dig themselves out of this hole, however, it will give George a chance to rewrite the narrative that’s sprung up around him. As my colleague Brian Windhorst is fond of saying, “Winning a championship means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Saturday night’s explosion put he and the Clippers one step closer to doing so. — Tim Bontemps


The Clippers find ways to attack Gobert

As good as Donovan Mitchell was for Utah in the first two games, Rudy Gobert‘s impact at both ends was nearly as important. The Jazz were plus-19 in Gobert’s 69 minutes of action and outscored by 10 in the other 27 minutes in Salt Lake City. That changed Saturday, when Utah was a minus-16 with Gobert on the court — similar to the plus-minus for the team’s other starters.

After going big in Game 2 with Ivica Zubac starting at center, the Clippers went back to their small starting lineup without a traditional center. That forced Gobert to defend a shooter on the perimeter, allowing the Clippers to attack without him as close to the basket. And unlike Game 1 — when they also started out-playing smallball — the Clippers avoided getting mashed on the offensive glass by the Jazz, who corralled just 22.5% of available offensive rebounds.

The result was a 44-32 edge in points in the paint for the Clippers, who shot 55% (22-of-40) on those attempts while Utah struggled to finish in the paint, going 16-of-35 (46%). — Kevin Pelton


Kawhi is still the best two-way player in the game

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Kawhi Leonard takes matters into his own hands as he makes his way to the basket and skies to vandalize the rim on a powerful throwdown.

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Kawhi Leonard takes matters into his own hands as he makes his way to the basket and skies to vandalize the rim on a powerful throwdown.

You knew Kawhi Leonard would be the best player on the court for at least one game this series.

For the Clippers to have any hope of advancing, it had to happen in Game 3. As he repeatedly did with LA in dire situations during the first round, Leonard rose to the occasion.

Credit to Paul George for making Leonard’s status as the biggest star of the Clippers’ win Saturday debatable. George had his best offensive performance of this postseason with 31 points, but Leonard’s extra-large fingerprints were all over the victory.

Leonard dominated with his strength, toughness and athleticism. He scored 34 points on 14-of-24 shooting, with more than half of his buckets coming in the paint. He grabbed 12 rebounds, several of the go-up-and-get-it-in-traffic variety. He was the Clippers’ most impactful defender, guarding Donovan Mitchell during much of the Jazz star’s scoreless first quarter and wreaking havoc as a help defender on many occasions.

You figured a two-time NBA Finals MVP wouldn’t go down without a fight. Leonard landed a haymaker on Saturday night. — Tim MacMahon


The Jazz need Mike Conley Jr.

Donovan Mitchell’s heroics in the first two games served as a great coverup, but the Jazz have been missing Mike Conley Jr. When Spida is off the floor, Conley is often tasked with running the offense and creating good looks for non-Mitchell teammates.

In the first two games of the series, Jazz players not named Mitchell shot just 38% from the field (46-for-121). Conley is the only other starter that can create a good look for himself, and without him, the offense is too one-dimensional. The Clippers were eventually going to adjust to the Jazz’s offensive schemes, and did so in Game 3.

With Mitchell having seemingly tweaked his previously injured ankle multiple times in this series, Conley’s offensive creation is even more vital if Mitchell were to slow in any way. — Andre Snellings


Reggie Jackson, the X-factor

When the Clippers were rounding out the pieces on the roster to complement their two stars, they probably didn’t exactly expect Reggie Jackson to become a deadeye spot-up shooter and critical third scorer.

But as this series progresses, Jackson’s importance is becoming obvious. Not only is he a shot creator and shot maker, he’s the spacer and pressure release that can open avenues for Leonard and George. Jackson’s late shot clock ability to either drive the lane or hit a difficult step-back are the kind of bailouts that playoff wins are often built on.

Against a team like the Jazz, that moves the ball dynamically, balances their scoring and hits barrages of 3s, relying on a two-headed attack wasn’t ever going to be enough. But if Jackson is going to consistently provide the kind of production of a pseudo third start, suddenly the Clippers start looking like the super team they were assumed to be. – Royce Young

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Gains sizable in NBA Finals ratings from last year, but fourth-lowest average since 1997

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NEW YORK — Television ratings for the NBA Finals and playoffs posted sizable increases over last year. But that was the only good news for the NBA as far as viewer numbers.

According to Nielsen, the NBA and ABC on Wednesday, the six-game series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns averaged 9.91 million viewers, a 32% increase over last year’s series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, which also went six games. However, the average makes it the fourth-lowest since 1997.

The Lakers-Heat series — which was played in October in the Orlando bubble after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season back five months — averaged only 7.45 million.

San Antonio‘s 2007 four-game sweep of Cleveland (9.29 million) and the Spurs’ six-game victory over New Jersey in 2003 (9.83 million) are the other series to average fewer than 10 million since 1997.

The numbers were also down 34.5% compared to two years ago, when the TorontoGolden State series averaged 15.14 million.

Milwaukee’s 105-98 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night attracted the most viewers in the series, averaging 12.52 million. The audience peaked between 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. EDT at 16.54 million. Only two games in the series averaged 10 million or more.

This year’s playoffs averaged 4.25 million, up 35% over last year but down 18% compared to 2019.

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Two shootings leave 3 wounded in Milwaukee during celebration of Bucks’ NBA championship

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MILWAUKEE — Two shootings in downtown Milwaukee early Wednesday as crowds celebrated the Milwaukee Bucks‘ first NBA championship in 50 years left three people wounded, police said.

The shootings both happened about 12:42 a.m. at two locations near Water Street, police said in a statement. TV station WISN had a reporter broadcasting from the scene when multiple shots were heard, prompting people to flee.

The shootings were across the Milwaukee River from Fiserv Forum, where the game was played, and the Deer District plaza, where a crowd of roughly 65,000 had gathered for an outdoor watch party. The area where the shootings took place is on a street heavily populated with bars and restaurants.

During Tuesday night’s game, a police officer was trampled by people trying to get into the Deer District watch party after the area had reached capacity, Milwaukee police Capt. Jesús Ortiz said in an email. The officer didn’t sustain any major injuries but reported being in general pain, Ortiz said.

Following one of the shootings, a 22-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries, police said, and a suspect was in custody.

In the other shooting, which police said happened simultaneously, a 19-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries. One person was in custody and other suspects were being sought, police said.

The two shootings, which were in the immediate area of the celebrations, likely were what was heard during the TV coverage, Ortiz said.

The celebrations came after Giannis Antetokounmpo capped one of the greatest NBA Finals ever with 50 points as Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win the series 4-2.

Fans who packed the streets surrounding the arena had cheered and danced all night as they watched the game on giant video screens, and the massive crowd erupted in jubilation as the game ended. A few fans climbed light poles in the plaza and others jumped off a bridge into the nearby river as fireworks exploded above the arena.

Joy Smith, 50, of Milwaukee, danced after the final buzzer. “Milwaukee is underrated, but we proved to the world we could do it,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Another fan, Sabrina Holland, 37, of Milwaukee, called it “epic.” She said: “Everyone who’s anyone is here.“

Before the game, and at the city’s request, Gov. Tony Evers mobilized 150 National Guard members to help in Milwaukee with traffic control and public safety.

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Sports world reacts to Milwaukee Bucks winning first NBA title since 1971

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The Milwaukee Bucks are the 2020-21 NBA champions and have snapped a 49-year title drought, the league’s fifth longest entering this season.

This ring proved to be hard-fought as Milwaukee is just the third team in Finals history to win four straight after trailing 2-0, joining the 2006 Miami Heat and 1977 Portland Trail Blazers. Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Bob Pettit as the only players in NBA history to score 50 points in a finals clincher.

As the franchise and fans celebrate their long-awaited championship, let’s relive some of the best social media moments from the Bucks’ title-clincher.

Antetokounmpo joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in Bucks history to be named Finals MVP. He and his teammates had several notable viewers excited to share their congratulations.




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