Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Clippers nonetheless have subsequent season: 5 takeaways from Recreation 7 loss to Nuggets

The Buffalo Braves reached three consecutive convention semifinals from 1974-76, however by no means superior. Two strikes, a brand new title and 30 years later, the franchise often called the Clippers lastly had an opportunity to take the subsequent step in 2006. As a substitute, they misplaced in seven video games to Phoenix.

Then “Lob Metropolis” arrived, however the conference-final breakthrough by no means did. There was a four-game, second-round sweep in 2012 by San Antonio, a six-game collection loss in 2014 to Oklahoma Metropolis and a loss to Houston in seven video games the next 12 months during which the Clippers collapsed after taking a 3-1 collection lead.

That historical past left Staples Middle’s rafters bereft of banners on Clippers recreation nights, and the franchise as certainly one of solely three within the NBA to by no means advance to a convention closing.

The present roster was constructed to vary that.

Kick-started by a 2018 commerce of All-Star ahead Blake Griffin, the Clippers turned the face of the franchise into quite a few gamers and future draft picks. They in flip had been dealt for extra gamers and wage cap flexibility that facilitated final 12 months’s commerce for All-Star ahead Paul George and signing of Kawhi Leonard, a two-time Finals most dear participant and the highest-profile free agent ever signed by the staff.

Two stars who grew up in Los Angeles’ exurbs of Palmdale and Moreno Valley returned dwelling amid fanfare final summer season. Now, they exit their first season collectively as Clippers struggling the identical postseason distress that has adopted the franchise for 50 years.

The 104-89 loss in Game 7 to Denver within the Western Convention semifinal was the third consecutive during which the Clippers held a double-digit lead earlier than shedding.

5 takeaways from the season-ending loss:

1. The details of Game 7 are grisly upon evaluate. A glance forward is so as as a result of the Clippers are assured just one extra season with Leonard and George. Each can choose out of their contracts and turn into free brokers in 2021. The Clippers’ first season as a championship favourite ends bitterly, and now the staff has only one 12 months left to go away the impression that it might probably win the title they promised they might chase.

“It hurts, it hurts, however we transfer on,” George mentioned. “You already know, once more, 12 months one collectively, first run collectively, after all we needed to win this. However we’ve been very optimistic about us being collectively and constructing one thing happening the highway.”

2. Leonard entered Recreation 7 averaging 11.5 factors within the second half of every recreation within the collection. He scored two factors after halftime of Recreation 7, making certainly one of his 11 photographs.

George averaged 10.eight factors per second half in opposition to Denver by way of six video games. He scored simply three factors after halftime Tuesday, making certainly one of his seven photographs and failing a free throw. George and Leonard mixed to overlook all 11 fourth-quarter photographs.

3. Gamers repeatedly mentioned that lack of chemistry on the courtroom was an element of their early exit. The Clippers fielded a wholesome roster 11 instances through the common season and eight extra within the postseason. Beginning heart Ivica Zubac and backup guard Landry Shamet arrived a number of weeks late to the NBA restart after testing constructive for the coronavirus. Three gamers left the bubble due to the deaths of family members. All had been causes cited — together with conditioning, from these absences and accidents — for why they bowed out in opposition to a Denver staff whose core has performed collectively for years.

“You’ve received a whole lot of components,” reserve guard Lou Williams mentioned. “You go from final 12 months, we had been the staff that wasn’t anticipated to make the playoffs to going and being a championship-caliber staff whenever you herald two high-level guys. That’s an adjustment. [Montrezl Harrell] and I, we needed to alter our video games.

“I feel all people needed to sacrifice and put themselves in a special place and that sort of factor takes time, particularly whenever you’re doing it for years at a time. For Kawhi, he simply gained a championship with a very totally different group of men, to come back right here. Paul was in a special scenario. There was so many various shifting components. So simply figuring out within the gymnasium, it doesn’t occur. It takes time. So you already know, we’ve received to take care of that. We’ve received to stay with it and transfer on.”

4. George mentioned afterward that “internally, we’ve all the time felt this isn’t a championship-or-bust 12 months for us. You already know, we are able to solely get higher the longer we keep collectively and the extra we’re round one another.”

The definition of “bust” may change from individual to individual, but it surely has all the time been clear that this season wasn’t meant to be a studying expertise however a title run. One month in the past, on the eve of the playoffs, coach Doc Rivers mentioned not successful a championship can be a disappointment. Requested about that sentiment that August day, George agreed.

“I imply, we wish to win the championship,” he mentioned. “That’s the explanation we dedicated to be right here. It’s so simple as that. We must always have one purpose and we have now one purpose, and that’s to win it.”

5. The ultimate three video games got here all the way down to the truth that one staff executed after halftime, and the opposite couldn’t. Denver outscored the Clippers by 74 factors mixed after halftime in Video games 5, 6 and seven.

“We had been getting point-blank seems, but it surely didn’t go, you already know, and [Denver] stored enjoying,” Rivers mentioned. “The entire distinction, they went by way of stretches like that, too, they simply stored enjoying. I assumed particularly within the fourth quarter, I simply thought we begin lacking photographs and you’ll see us trusting much less and fewer and fewer. I imply, hear, clearly I might have accomplished one thing extra. I all the time suppose it’s me it doesn’t matter what. I don’t care what we had. I don’t have a look at this and attempt to determine it out, however you already know, it’s very disappointing.”



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