SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – After one of the most devastating losses in franchise history, all of a sudden, the Utah Jazz magical season is over.
The Jazz could not hold a 25-point third quarter lead and lose to the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers, 131-119, and lose the series four games to two.
“I’m still in shock,” Donovan Mitchell said after the game. “This hurts more than last year. This is going to eat at me for a long time.”
This was the largest comeback win in a series-clinching game in the last 25 years.
The Jazz led 75-50 early in the fourth quarter before the Clippers exploded in the second half for 81 points, shooting 71 percent from the field.
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.
“Obviously it’s painful,” said Rudy Gobert, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. “We felt we had all the weapons to take a shot at a title. But it’s a learning experience.”
“I think our inefficiency early on in the third quarter turning the ball over, that led to a lot of baskets,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “And obviously in the half court they spaced us and moved it and had us on our heels.”
“We just didn’t do the same thing we did in [the first two games],” Mitchell said. “They made adjustments, we made adjustments, but we didn’t execute it. That’s on us.”
Terance Mann scored a career-high 39 points on 15 of 21 shooting, Paul George had 28 points and Reggie Jackson added 27 as the Clippers advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in its 50-year franchise history.
Los Angeles won the final two games against the Jazz with All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard sidelined by a sprained right knee.
Mitchell battled through an injured ankle to score 39 points, dish out nine assists and pull down nine rebounds. Mike Conley returned from a hamstring injury after missing the first five games of the series, but was able to score just five points on 1 of 8 shooting from the field.
“Initially I was told I wasn’t gonna be able to play at all this series,” Conley said. “This maybe being the last game of the season, I had to give it a try. But I couldn’t move well. It was a tough night.”
Mann helped fuel the rally with 20 points in the third quarter as the Clippers went on a 17-0 run. 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 advantage with 10:36 remaining.
The Clippers ended up making 20 of 39 shots from beyond the arc.
“At the beginning of third quarter, we started turning the ball over,” Snyder said. “We were trying to guard the ball snd struggled to stay in front. Mann started making shots. Everybody made shots.”
Mann 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.
It is the second time in franchise history the Jazz have blown a 25-point lead in a postseason game.
“Once Terance Mann started hitting 3’s and getting to the rim, that changed the game,” Conley said. “Reggie Jackson finishing at the rim was tough. We needed to help each other, and we were a step or two slow on every rotation.”
“They were the tougher team over the course of the series,” Gobert said. “They were more connected over the course of the series. For us, it’s pretty much the story of our season. For us to take another step in the playoffs, a lot of things are gonna have to be better.”
Royce O’Neale added 21 for the Jazz, while Jordan Clarkson added 21, all in the first half.
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.
A dunk by Royce 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.
This is the first time the Jazz have lost four straight games all season. Utah is now 94-2 when leading by 25-plus points under Quin Snyder.
“We had such high hopes, especially with this year being so wide open,” Conley said. “It’s just frustrating that we don’t get that opportunity with these guys.”
Conley is the biggest name set to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season.
“I’ve been extremely proud of a lot of guys on this team,” he said. “We’ve had so many guys step up throughout the year. We had a lot of injuries, and those guys kept us afloat. It was a real pleasure to compete with those guys and to share the court with them.”
“I’m incredibly proud of this team,” Snyder said. “When you finish on a loss like this, it’s hard to reflect on what I think was an outstanding year.”