The LA Clippers enter Game 3 of their second-round matchup with the Utah Jazz in familiar territory.
Having lost both Game 1 and Game 2, the Clippers return to Los Angeles looking to avoid going down a hole no team has ever crawled out of. Of the 142 teams that have gone up 3-0 in NBA Playoffs history, every single one has won the series to advance to the next round.
The Clippers were in a similar situation in the first round of these playoffs. After dropping Game 1 and Game 2 in Los Angeles, the Clippers defeated the Mavericks twice in a row in Dallas to even the series at 2-2. The Clippers dropped Game 5 but won Game 6 and Game 7 to punch their ticket to the second round.
"We all got to put our will out on the floor," Kawhi Leonard said heading into Game 3 against the Jazz. "You know, see what we did in the first two games and try to limit our mistakes and just keep going on from there pretty much.
"We'll see what we got to do, and we've got a lot of fight left. So you know, we're up for the challenge."
Fortunately for the Clippers, their best player has a history of stepping up in these moments.
Here's how Leonard performed the two times he has trailed 2-0 in a series in his career.
A gritty performance
Date: May 19, 2019
Stats: 36 PTS (11-25 FG, 12-13 FT), 9 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK
Leonard showed up when the Toronto Raptors needed him the most.
Trailing the Milwaukee Bucks 2-0 in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, Leonard led the Raptors to a double-overtime Game 3 win with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a career-high 52 minutes of play.
Leonard saved his best for last, scoring eight of Toronto's 15 points in the second overtime.
#WeTheNorth @kawhileonard scores 19 of his 36 PTS in the 4th/OT's, guiding the @Raptors (1-2) to the double OT win in Game 3! #NBAPlayoffs- NBA (@NBA) May 20, 2019
Game 4: Tuesday (5/21), 8:30pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/MqBvc3QT8S
Leonard got it done on the defensive end as well.
In the first two games of the series, Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated the Raptors with averages of 27.0 points, 15.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Antetokounmpo still made his presence felt with 12 points, 23 rebounds and seven assists, but Leonard helped the Raptors limit the two-time MVP to 5-for-16 shooting from the field in Game 3. Antetokounmpo also committed a playoff career-high eight turnovers in the loss.
The Raptors went on to win the next three games of the series to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Efficient as ever
Date: May 28, 2021
Stats: 36 PTS (13-17 FG, 7-7 FT), 8 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK, 1 STL
Another dominant performance.
Down 2-0 to the Mavericks in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Leonard delivered in Game 3 with a team-high 36 points on 13-for-17 shooting from the field.
In the process, Leonard joined Blake Griffin and Elton Brand as the only players in Clippers franchise history to score 35 points on 75 percent shooting from the field in a playoff game.
Leonard was a model of consistency, scoring nine points in each quarter to offset a big game from Luka Doncic.
Kawhi (36 PTS) and Luka (44 PTS) dueled in Game 3.. what do you expect from each 🌟 in Game 4??- NBA (@NBA) May 31, 2021
LAC (1-2) DAL, 9:30pm/et, TNTpic.twitter.com/dPOgRZEfLS
The Clippers defeated the Mavericks in three of the next four games to advance to the second round.
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