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About That Lakers-Clippers Playoffs Showdown

September 16th, 2020 · No Comments · Clippers, Lakers, NBA

It must be tough being a Clippers fan. Well, heck, yeah, it is.

The franchise has been around for a half-century now and has never played in an NBA Finals, let alone won one.

The odometer rolled over to 50 seasons of failure last night when the Denver Nuggets completed a comeback from 3-1 down to breeze past the discombobulated Clips 104-89 in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.

And the answer to a question posed in August is, “No, you cannot have a Lakers-Clippers showdown in the conference finals.”

The Clippers began the season with oodles, reams of fanfare, after having signed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, creating what appeared to be a super team. Perhaps even the team to beat this time around.

They looked the part as recently as last week, when they took three of four from Denver to move within a game of that all-L.A. conference final.

And then the Clippers reverted to being the Clippers. What they are best at. They blew double-digit, second-half leads in Games 5, 6 and 7.

And now we shift our focus to What Went Wrong.

–Chemistry. As in, “there isn’t any”. Leonard’s arrival, with George in tow, created dysfunction vis a vis the Clippers who had been part of the entertaining 2018-19 NBA season. The former felt empowered; the latter felt overlooked.

The turning point may have come in January, before the pandemic splintered the season into Before and After.

The speaker of truth was Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers all-action center who, after an ugly home defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies on January 4, questioned the team’s work ethic and togetherness and told reporters that he did not play on a great team. Improvements needed to be made.

–Leonard was involved in some awkward moments — as he had been at his two previous stops, in Toronto and San Antonio. He and George, his sidekick, sometimes appeared to be running the team.

–Doc Rivers, the coach, was unable to get this figured out, and as the season progressed cryptic media references to Clippers “chemistry” and “communication” began appearing. It was not always clear what strategies Rivers was bringing to the club, in the Kawhi Era. Questions about effort often popped up. How could the Clippers be so good one week and so awful the next?

They were exposed in the playoffs by a cohesive Denver team, and it ended ugly: Leonard was 1-for-11 from the field in the fourth quarter. The Clips scored only 33 points in the second half of a game they had led by a point at the break.

And, suddenly, the Clippers are only a year away from Leonard and George being able to walk away as free agents.

Given the tension of the season now past …

So, no, no Lakers-Clippers collision. Maybe next year. But don’t count on it. As Clippers fans, you probably already know that.


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