Los Angeles Times

Extendable or expendable?

It’ll be winner play on, loser go home today in Game 7 showdown for Clippers and Jazz.

- By Broderick Turner

They live for another day, a day of reckoning for these Clippers, a day that will decide which direction the winner-take-all Game 7 will take them.

Truth be told, it has always been in the Clippers’ hands to decide their fate in the Western Conference first-round series against the equally determined Utah Jazz.

After the Clippers saved their season with a 98-93 victory in Game 6 Friday night at Salt Lake City to even the series at 3-3, they have a chance to extend their playoff lives Sunday afternoon at Staples Center in the final installmen­t of the best-ofseven series.

“Any time you can go on the road and force a Game 7, it can be a galvanizin­g thing for sure,” J.J. Redick said late Friday night outside of a joyous Clippers locker room at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

The winner on Sunday will advance to the second round to meet the Golden State Warriors starting Tuesday night in Oakland.

But first things first, and

that’s dealing with the high stakes in front of the Clippers.

Two years ago they played in two Game 7s, one working out very well, the other not so much.

Under similar circumstan­ces in 2015, the Clippers went to San Antonio down 3-2 in a first-round series. They won Game 6 and came home and won Game 7 behind the brilliance of Chris Paul.

But in the second round against the Houston Rockets, the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead and lost Game 7 on the road.

The point is that the Clippers have been in this position before and know how intense it is to play in a Game 7.

“They are emotional,” Redick said. “Like every playoff game is emotional. As much as you get drained physically throughout the regular season — and there is a certain level . . . of emotion in every game — the playoffs sort of amplify that emotion, especially when it’s an eliminatio­n game and your season is on the brink of being done. When both teams are in an eliminatio­n game, it can be very emotional.”

The first six games were tense, competitiv­e and hung in the balance until the very end. The average margin of victory was 5.2 points, with the largest being eight points.

The Clippers have averaged 98.8 points per game in the series and the Jazz 98.0.

“It’s going to be highly competitiv­e,” guard Austin Rivers said Friday night. “We know what we need to do and we’re ready to do it.”

As Jamal Crawford sat at his locker stall late Friday night, a smile on his face, all he could do was shake his head at how close these teams have played each other.

“This is my fourth seventh game,” Crawford said. “They are unbelievab­le. It’s fun. You know how they use the slogan, ‘Win or go home.’ It’s really win or go home. It’s fun. It’s like a high school tournament, when you lose you go home. That’s it. Win or go home.”

The Clippers and Jazz have been eyeing each other all season, and now in the postseason.

Both finished the regular season with 51-31 records. They are 3-3 in this series, the Clippers winning twice in Salt Lake City and the Jazz twice in Los Angeles.

“It’s going to be a physical game just like the rest of them,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said Friday night. “We have to be better defensivel­y, especially in pick-androll situations. [We gave up] too many easy looks for them at the rim [in Game 6] or jump shots that are workout shots, and I think we can clean that up. But at this point and time, we know what they’re going to run and they know what we’re going to run. It’s about execution. It’s about who wants it more. So we’ve got to be the team that wants it more.”

 ?? Gene Sweeney Jr. Getty Images ?? SIXTH MAN Jamal Crawford relishes Game 7s as “unbelievab­le” and “fun.” Today’s will be his fourth.
Gene Sweeney Jr. Getty Images SIXTH MAN Jamal Crawford relishes Game 7s as “unbelievab­le” and “fun.” Today’s will be his fourth.

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