The Los Angeles Clippers are on the wrong end of one of the worst - if not the worst - choke in NBA history. They were up 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Denver Nuggets and led by double digits in all the three final games, just to be knocked out in Game 7.
That dropped the franchise to 0-8 in Western Conference Finals-clinching games and they're yet to reach that stage after 50 years of history. The Nuggets, on the other hand, became the 13th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit and the first one to do it multiple times in the playoffs.
To say that the Clippers' season came to a disappointing end is an understatement. Not to take anything away from Denver, which played great, winning basketball; but you can't blow three straight double-digit leads when you're on the verge of making history. You just can't.
Kawhi Leonard Says The Clippers Must Be Smarter
Following his team's disappointing effort, reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard said that the team needs to improve chemistry-wise and be smarter to get the kind of shots they want in those situations:
“We just couldn’t make shots. Felt like we got some good looks — that’s when it comes to the team chemistry, knowing what we should run to get the ball in spots, or just if someone’s getting doubled or they’re packing the paint, try to make other guys make shots and we gotta know what exact spots we need to be, and you know, just gotta carry over and get smarter as a team. Get smarter. Basketball IQ got to get better," Leonard said.
Kawhi Leonard - “We just couldn’t make shots. I feel like we got some good looks… We gotta know what exact spots we need to be in. Just gotta carry over and get smarter as a team. Gotta get smarter. Basketball IQ’s gotta get better.”#Clippers pic.twitter.com/0glNBfXmm2— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) September 16, 2020
Kawhi didn't want to get into the team's championship aspirations and continued to address his point of the Clippers' need for being smarter. He questioned his team's execution down the stretch:
“I am not going to say that, but like I was just saying, just being smarter. Just knowing us being able to know what to do in what situations when guys are playing us certain ways and seeing how we can get some execution down the stretch, guys knowing exactly where they need to be, in crunch time our situation when you can’t put the ball in the hole, those are big things that championship teams have. They have a chemistry to probably get out of the hole and they know exactly what to do when teams throw different scenarios at you," he concluded.
Paul George Says The Team Needed More Time Together
Paul George wasn't as straight-forward as Leonard. He went on to say that the team didn't have enough time together and this wasn't a 'championship-or-bust' year, even though that's exactly what it was:
"We stayed positive about it. We tipped our hats off to the opponents… It hurt as a group. It's not the outcome that we wanted. We talked it out. We're looking for the long run. All we got from here, is to be positive going forward. (...) The fact of the matter is we didn’t live up to that expectation. But I think internally we’ve always felt this is not a ‘championship or bust’ year for us. We just didn’t have enough time together," George said.
Paul George on expectations - “It’s the first time I've been in that situation where we're expected to win. It is what it is. It's no cop out. Fact of the matter is, we didn't live up to that expectation.— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) September 16, 2020
“Internally, we've always felt this is not a championship-or-bust year.” pic.twitter.com/B2Z6EiG0iS
The Clippers have a lot of thinking and planning to do for next season. They gave up a lot of future assets to put together this roster and don't have much cap space to work with. As for Doc Rivers, his days in charge of the team could be numbered.
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