LOS ANGELES – Looking back, it was impossible to see what Terance Mann did in the 131-119 win of the Los Angeles Clippers against Utah Jazz on Friday night.
No way. Anyone who says they foresaw the player to score 39 points in their sophomore year to send the Clippers to the first Western Conference final in franchise history is still delirious when they see what was going to happen the first full indoor audience in Los Angeles since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Terance Mann, born in 1996, was drafted to 46th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft and has just helped one of the NBA’s hardest hit franchises break a barrier that honestly seemed pretty cursed over the years.
So many of the Clippers fans who grabbed the Staples Center on Friday night have gone through nights that started out so promisingly over the years but turned sour. There was the 19-point lost lead against the Houston Rockets in 2015, which ushered the team down from a 3-1 lead. Last season the NBA bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, suffered the agonizing 3-1 collapse against the Denver Nuggets.
Even the three home defeats to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round put the faith of even die-hard Clippers fans to the test. And let’s not even mention the decades of embarrassment and anger they went through under former owner Donald Sterling.
So much luggage – and the Clippers and the crowd dumped a ton of it on Friday night.
The entire second half felt like a collective exhale as the Clippers bounced back from a 22-point half-time gap. First Mann got going, then Reggie Jackson (27 points), then Paul George (28), then Nicolas Batum (16) and then Patrick Beverley (12).
The crowd began to believe the rally could go to the end when Mann scored eight straight points in less than a minute, reducing a 15-point lead to 90:83 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter.
By the time Mann hit a 3-pointer to bring LA 116-106 5:31 ahead of the game, the crowd was delirious.
The in-house entertainment provided DMX’s “Party Up” for the next break. The first line – “Y’all gonna make me lost my mind” – captured the moment perfectly.
Terance Mann – had just delivered the first Western Conference championship in franchise history. Terance man?
“I trust my work,” said Mann afterwards. “When you trust your work, you trust yourself, you are not surprised when something like this happens.”
Those who have followed the Clippers closely all season have enjoyed watching its development. He’s a source of pride for the front office and coaching team of the franchise.
Those who have just started following the Clippers likely found out his name on Wednesday when he took on the injured Kawhi Leonard and won one of the dunks of the year against Utah’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, would have.
The dunk was brave in both its execution and its ambitions to hit the 7-foot French. After that, at the only premonition anyone can honestly point out, Mann shrugged and said he was tired of settling for 3-pointers against one of the NBA’s best shot blockers.
“I just wanted to see what I can do,” said Mann after Game 5.
In game 6 he showed everything he could.
“You’ve seen a full game by a sophomore,” said George. “You saw how he stretched the floor. You saw him defensive. You saw it bounce back.
“You just saw so many flashes of so many different things – and he did it in the most important part of the game. To be honest, he single-handedly reclaimed us. “
George spent a lot of time with Mann early in the 2019 season as he was working his way back from shoulder surgery.
“T-man was like my sparring partner,” said George. “His tenacity was what I needed to get back to the elite level. We challenged each other. I hope I was able to pass some things on to him.”
“He works so hard on his game. One of the best young players I know. Reminds me a lot. He puts the work in. So let’s tell him we’re out of here, you work so hard, what? Come here.” and show it. “
In many ways, it seems appropriate that a young man with little reference to the Clippers past played such an important role in changing it. Mann didn’t carry the same baggage as veterans like Beverley, the longest-serving clipper.
“I was here when we were eighth seed and was just partying to get into the playoffs,” said Beverley. “Finishing a game like this, making history, is special, man.
“To be the last man and make history is special, man, very special.”
George, who grew up in Palmdale, California, about an hour north of downtown Los Angeles, knew and felt that weight.
“You felt it,” said George. “The cheers, the excitement. You felt how the monkey was on the back of the Clippers when it came to getting out of the second round.”
Even coach Tyronn Lue, who won one of the 17 championships of the Crosstown Los Angeles Lakers as a player, understood the story the Clippers are trying to undo here in Los Angeles.
“Just to see our fans and how they stayed until the end and how they cheered, it just felt good,” said Lue. “The team was starving for success and the team did the same.
“I always see it differently. I know the Lakers are out and there are a lot of Laker fans here. But once the Lakers are gone and we don’t play the Lakers, cheer on the Clippers because that’s all okay.” a city. I can just feel the love and I am very happy and proud of our boys. “
It is difficult to process, let alone to put the game in the right light for jazz. Utah had the best record in the league this season. But the team that took their place in this series was handicapped. Young superstar security guard Donovan Mitchell suffered an apparently painful ankle injury. Veteran all-star security guard Mike Conley attempted a hamstring injury that prevented him from playing in the series’ first five games.
Both men took jazz with them just by being in the square. Utah even extended a lead in the first half as Mitchell scored 22 of his team highlights of 39 points and Jordan Clarkson, the sixth man of the year, scored 21 points in the first half.
But jazz ran out of breath in the second half when Clarkson went scoreless and Mitchell exhausted himself just as the Clippers and their fans roared back.
“First of all, I think they were the tougher team and the more connected team over the course of the series,” said Gobert. “They stay together even after they lost 22, they kept playing their basketball style, they kept moving the ball, they always found the open man, they just stuck with it.
“The last few years have come to a frustrating end for us as a team. For myself, when I have a clear head, I try to ask myself the right questions and try to think, ‘What can I do? can we do that So that never happens again. ‘”
That night, however, belonged to the Clippers. The incredible story, written by a child who shares a name with one of the most famous fictional authors in film history, Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams.
This Terance man also inspired a picture book comeback. Only this one really happened. And the end is still unwritten.