LA Clippers: The hype was real but the execution wasn’t

LA Clippers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
LA Clippers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

After losing to the Denver Nuggets, the LA Clippers did not live up to their hype this season.

The LA Clippers were the favorites to win the NBA championship — in betting odds, in the media, and among NBA fans. But the Clippers couldn’t pull away after being up 3-1 against the Denver Nuggets, and they got eliminated from the bubble playoffs.

The Clippers are now 0-8 in games to clinch the Western Conference Finals, and that franchise record is the longest streak in NBA history. They led the Houston Rockets 3-1 in 2015 and lost three straight. The dynamic new-look Clippers with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan lost to James Harden, Dwight Howard, and Trevor Ariza. Doc Rivers was in his second year and Chris Paul was in his fourth year with the team.

The Clippers have never been out of the second round in their Los Angeles franchise history. Their first season in Los Angeles was 1984-1985 when they had Norm Nixon and Bill Walton.

Since the 2011-2012 season, the first season with Chris Paul, they’ve won the division twice, lost in the first round four times, lost in the second round four times, and missed the playoffs once.

The new-look Clippers have new players, a new owner, new executives, new coaches, and a new swag — but the history hasn’t changed yet.

Why are NBA fans going for the Clippers so hard? Is it warranted?

Well, let’s talk about Patrick Beverley’s performance. He was the one doing a lot of the trash talking this season.

He averaged six points, three assists, four rebounds, and four fouls in about 21 minutes played per game. He had two games with two games with two fouls, one game with three, two games with four, one game with five, and one game with six. Denver kept him on the bench. The Clippers as a team averaged 23 fouls a game.

During the regular season, Beverley reportedly told Steph Curry, “you had the last five years — the next five years are mine.”

Beverley may be right about the next four years.

"Paul George said after the game, “I think internally, we always felt this was not a championship-or-bust year for us.”"

Any team who doesn’t believe it’s championship or bust doesn’t want it bad enough.

The 73-9 Golden State Warriors knew it was championship or bust after losing three straight games to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals leading the series 3-1. They signed Kevin Durant in the offseason, went 67-15, and beat the same Cavaliers 4-1.

I detailed the reason it was a championship or bust season for the Clippers here.

How important is chemistry with a team competing for a championship?

Chemistry is important, but communication is the biggest thing a team needs.

It’s not a secret the Clippers didn’t have chemistry, but that’s not an excuse. Anthony Davis is in his first year with the Lakers, Jimmy Butler and rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn are in their first year with the Miami Heat, Kemba Walker is in his first year with the Boston Celtics.

These are teams that are in the Conference Finals — and none have made it this far. They don’t have the experience that Leonard has. Leonard played six seasons, and won a championship, with Greg Popovich. He’s debatably one of the best coaches ever. No experience tops that.

But one thing those names do have is leadership on the floor. The Lakers have LeBron James, while Butler and Walker are their team’s leaders.

The Clippers didn’t have the leadership they needed — because leadership would have made it a problem that one of their players got wings at a gentlemen’s club during a global pandemic while their teammates were preparing for a title run.

What went wrong?

The style of play was wrong. The Clippers don’t have someone that can slow the ball down, call a play, and make the right pass — they have a handful of great scorers who could call an isolation and score at will. In a seven-game series, that’s predictable and can be stopped. The Nuggets did just that by adjusting their on-ball defense and their defensive rotations when the ball is swinging and on screen-and-roll actions.

The Clippers started the season with big expectations. You can’t fill your car up with hopes and dreams praying it’ll get you to work — it needs gasoline (unless it’s electric).

The Clippers ran out of gas in Game 7 of the second round playoffs.

It’s a marathon, not a race.

They can go home, heal their wounds, discuss where they can improve, and come back stronger.

Marcus Morris Sr., Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, Patrick Patterson, Reggie Jackson, Joakim Noah, and Johnathan Motley are all possible free agents — with Green holding a player option for the 2020-2021 season.

Doc Rivers isn’t a bad coach, but the team has to look at their priorities. Something has to change. Just like the Rockets’ upcoming coaching change, because shooting more than 50 three-pointers a game didn’t work for them, the Clippers have to take a hard look at where they are and where they want to be.