In the end, the LA Clippers were still the Clippers
Just when it looked like the LA Clippers were absolutely ready to take that next step, and walk right out from the overcasting shadow of that other NBA franchise in Los Angeles, here comes the gritty never say die never give up Denver Nuggets to spoil the party.
Once again, like so many other times in the Clippers history, they do exactly what most NBA fans expected them to do and that is go home before the Conference Finals.
Let’s not put this entirely on the Clippers now, the Nuggets did do their part in sending home the consensus favorite to win the 2020 NBA Finals, going back to last summer when this team was first constructed. Nikola Jokic did his thing dropping a triple-double on Kawhi and company with 16 points, 22 rebounds, and 13 assists in 40 minutes.
To show you just how spectacular Jokic was in Game 7, he was a +22 in plus/minus while his young phenom point guard Jamal Murray was +15 in plus/minus and he scored 40 points in the game. And this performance from the Nuggets comes on the 49th birthday of their head coach Mike Malone. Talk about one hell of a birthday gift, in a trip to the Western Conference Finals for this coach and his young team.
During the post-game press conference on NBA TV Jokic was asked what he would get coach Malone for his birthday.
The second half of this game seemed like the Clippers were ready to go home as their energy and sense of urgency just didn’t look to be there. The Clippers scored 32 points in the second quarter of Game 7 and led the Nuggets at halftime by two points, 56-54. The Clippers then scored a whopping 33 points in the third and fourth quarters combined.
As great as Kawhi Leonard has been in his postseason career thus far, there isn’t any way around this because he laid a dinosaur egg in this Game 7. The usually dependable Leonard was 6-22 from the field with 14 points. His partner in crime “Playoff P”, more like “Way-off P” was even worse shooting 4-16 from the field with only 10 points.
Even with Sixth Man of the Year award winner Montrezl Harrell scoring 20 points, it did not really matter as the Nuggets outscored the Clips in the second half, 50-33.
Denver won this game by 15, 104-89 and it wasn’t really even that close once the fourth quarter rolled around. Every time it felt like the Clippers had a glimmer of hope and they’d get a nice defensive stop and come back down the court on offense they would either turn the ball back over to the Nuggets or clank another one off the front or back of the rim. They just never got into any kind of groove offensively in the second half of this one and you could just feel it and see it down the stretch.
At one point late in the game, Paul George takes a corner 3 that bangs off the top of the side of the backboard. It was definitely a face in palm type of moment if you’re a Clippers fan. The offense just wasn’t there tonight. The Clippers offense looked stagnant with little movement and too much one-on-one iso ball. While the season is just ending for them and we don’t know what Doc and the front office are thinking as far as player movement, it’s fairly easy to see that the Clippers could stand to bring in an offensive-minded true point guard to run this offense like when Chris Paul was leading this team just a couple of years ago.
There is just far too much on the shoulders of Kawhi Leonard if Paul George is not going to show up in big games as we saw in Game 7.
Another Game 7, and another loss for the Clippers who now must take this one and wear it for who knows how long. With the start of the next NBA season still in flux due to the ongoing pandemic, the Clippers crew may have to carry this loss around for longer than usual.
No matter when the NBA’s 2021 season begins, the offseason for these Clippers should prove to be another interesting one regardless of the direction they go in regard to players, as well as the front office and coaching staff.