It’s unclear, in the aftermath of the Clippers’ 98-93 victory Friday night in Game 6 vs. the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, whether the Jazz snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, or if the Clippers were simply unable to fling the win far enough away from them as to not reattach itself like a homesick puppy.
But either way, we do know one thing:
There will be a Game 7 on Sunday at Staples Center (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
The Clippers rallied when things looked to be slipping away on their season without Blake Griffin on Friday night, established a 14-point lead, then went into full Clippers mode. The Clippers had a 99.6 percent chance of victory with a 14-point lead with 3:58 according to inPredictable.com. That number dropped to 88.7 when Gordon Hayward’s 3-pointer off a Joe Ingles offensive rebound cut the lead to three, but not even L.A. could throw this one away.
The Jazz have been tougher in this series, resilient and focused. But they’ve also needed two comebacks to get three of their wins, and they couldn’t find the magic for a third. When Utah is at its best, it’s versatile and dynamic, but at its worst it looks like a group of cavemen throwing rocks at cave walls. The Jazz shot 41 percent from the field, 7 for 26 from 3-point range, and the hero’s cape eluded Joe Johnson in the final seconds.
Chris Paul was predictably brilliant with 29 points on 10-of-20 shooting and eight assists, right up until he threw two passes he later described as “bone-headed” late which led to Utah points off turnovers to cut the lead. With Paul, especially without Griffin, everything really is on him. When he’s great, he’s an unstoppable leader of men. When he struggles, he’s the same playoff failure people describe him as. He is both, at the same time, and yet, for a night, escaped the mantle of playoff disappointment for two days at least.
Utah now has the pressure on them. They let an opportunity slip, they’re on the road in a Game 7 and without Blake Griffin, the Clippers get to play free, they’re living on house money now. The Jazz are inexperienced and have to face down a desperate Chris Paul. The Clippers have to face down their own history of playoff foibles and disappointment.