Excuses Abound After Clippers’ Historic Playoff Collapse vs. Nuggets

Excuses Abound After Clippers’ Historic Playoff Collapse vs. Nuggets
Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressFor over a full calendar year, since last July’s epic free-agency arms race, the NBA’s Battle of Los Angeles seemed like a formality.After the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James, the Clippers landed reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency and swung an out-of-nowhere blockbuster trade for…
Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Designate J. Terrill/Linked Press

For over a full calendar year, since final July’s narrative free-agency fingers tear, the NBA‘s Struggle of Los Angeles gave the affect like a formality.

After the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James, the Clippers landed reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency and swung an out-of-nowhere blockbuster trade for Paul George, forming an instantaneous superteam. 

All summer long and into the season, debate raged in all corners of the basketball world as to which crew became as soon as higher. The Lakers had James and Davis, nonetheless the Clippers were adding two All-NBA talents to the crew of overachievers that had suddenly pushed the Golden Order Warriors to 6 games in final year’s playoffs.

To this level within the bubble, the Lakers have held up their discontinue of the reduce price, with out command winning their first two playoff collection to effect the Western Conference Finals. However after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night in a disheartening Sport 7 loss, the Clippers might presumably perhaps furthermore no longer be becoming a member of them.

Blowing a 3-1 lead within the playoffs is by no manner fun. Request the Utah Jazz crew that the Nuggets overcame within the same type in doubtlessly the most vital round. However for a crew that became as soon as namely constructed to favor a title lawful now, it be namely devastating.

“We had championship expectations,” Clippers guard Lou Williams stated after the game. “We had the talent to construct it. We did now not have the chemistry to construct it.”

The Clippers traded away five future first-round picks to pair George with Leonard, nonetheless some participants of the crew interestingly did now not feel as even though they’d to favor a championship this season.

“Internally, we now have repeatedly felt this is now not always a championship-or-bust year for us,” George stated. “We did now not have ample time together.”

Designate J. Terrill/Linked Press

But another crew that did now not have great time to construct up chemistry became as soon as the Toronto Raptors squad that Leonard left final July. The Raptors obtained him and Danny Inexperienced the earlier summer and added starting center Marc Gasol on the trade deadline on their manner to winning a title. 

The Lakers crew these Clippers were speculated to face within the Western Conference Finals traded nearly half of its rotation for Davis final summer and filled within the gaps with veterans on cheap deals. They did now not have years to construct up continuity, both. They’ve furthermore obtained every of their first two collection within the bubble in five games.

George himself had previously stated these expectations were there. At some level of an interview attend in June with comic Kevin Hart, he stated: “Straight away, we were anticipated to reach attend in and favor all of it.”

So, which is it?

The resolution is a bit of both.

Sure, the Clippers mortgaged their future to divulge in two superstars who can turn out to be free agents following the 2020-21 season. Any outcome different than winning the title, or on the very least making the Finals, is a disappointment. No longer even making the convention finals is a catastrophe, namely when they led by double digits in three straight elimination games.

However everyone deciding on them to favor this year’s title in all likelihood might presumably perhaps furthermore honest aloof have taken their lack of continuity into story.

Designate J. Terrill/Linked Press

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George overlooked doubtlessly the most vital 11 games of the season recuperating from shoulder surgical operation and an additional 9 games in January with a hamstring topic. Leonard did now not play on attend-to-backs all year as section of his prolonged load-administration belief. A key member of their supporting forged, Marcus Morris Sr., got here over on the trade deadline, appropriate a month before the COVID-19 shutdown in March.

That stuff issues, namely in opposition to a Denver crew that is deep, successfully-coached and knows who they’re. Even if they’d survived Sport 7 in opposition to Denver, it likely would have mattered in opposition to a Lakers crew with a locked-in James and role gamers who’ve been clicking all around the playoffs.

The Clippers thought they would presumably presumably furthermore honest flee on pure talent, which on paper they’ve more of than any different crew within the NBA. However they bought complacent all too on the entire and let their opponents lollygag around.

They might presumably perhaps accumulate away with it in opposition to the Dallas Mavericks in doubtlessly the most vital round. The Nuggets were a certain account.

After Tuesday’s loss, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers stated he felt gamers lacking time all around the season restart hurt their conditioning. The Clippers’ instances in this regard—including Williams’ sinful time out to Magic City—were more excessive-profile, nonetheless a set of teams within the bubble dealt with that downside on some stage.

The Nuggets were so shorthanded before the entirety of coaching camp at Disney World that they would presumably presumably now not even conduct five-on-five scrimmages. Nikola Jokic examined positive for COVID-19 in Serbia and became as soon as slack to reach. Loads of different gamers were slack to reach from Denver after positive tests as successfully. Guard Gary Harris overlooked all eight seeding games and quite lots of of of doubtlessly the most vital round with a hip difficulty. They’re aloof with out forward Will Barton, who left the bubble to rehab an ongoing knee difficulty.

It did now not topic. The Nuggets aloof stumbled on a manner to construct up to where they desired to construct up. And they did now not have the title expectations the Clippers did.

When Clippers gamers talk about referring to the hardships of the bubble which have affected every crew, it sounds like various excuses from a crew that might presumably perhaps furthermore honest aloof have been higher.

Sean Highkin covers the NBA for Bleacher File. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and lives in Portland. His work has been honored by the Pro Basketball Writers’ Association. Observe him on TwitterInstagram and within the B/R App.

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