Not lengthy after the LA Clippers‘ season got here crashing down in beautiful vogue, coach Doc Rivers stated the finger may be pointed at him for the workforce’s failure to satisfy its huge championship expectations.
After the Clippers fully unraveled for a 3rd straight recreation in a 104-89 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Recreation 7 of the Western Convention semifinals in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Rivers stated the title expectations weren’t too heavy for his workforce, regardless that the Clippers fell in need of reaching what many thought all season could be a West finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We did not meet them,” Rivers stated of the expectations. “That is the underside line. I am the coach, and I will take any blame for it. However we did not meet our expectations, clearly, as a result of if we had, in my view, we would nonetheless be enjoying.”
The Clippers squandered a 3-1 lead within the best-of-seven collection in epic vogue. They misplaced double-digit leads of 16, 19 and 12 factors up to now three video games, respectively, because the franchise’s Western Convention finals drought reached 50 years.
Rivers is the one coach in NBA historical past to lose a 3-1 lead in three playoff collection, having carried out so with the Clippers within the 2015 West semis towards the Houston Rockets and with the Orlando Magic within the first spherical towards the Detroit Pistons in 2003.
“We’re pissed off,” stated Lou Williams, who struggled and shot 4-for-27 from past the arc within the collection. “Easy and plain, we’re pissed off. We had been up 3-1. We had two alternatives to win this collection, and we did not.”
Williams added: “I believe lots of the problems that we bumped into, expertise bailed us out. Chemistry it did not. On this collection, it failed us.”
Leonard, a two-time NBA Finals MVP who led the Toronto Raptors to a championship final season earlier than signing with LA in free company, stated the Clippers have to enhance their basketball IQ and develop chemistry, like championship groups do, following their collapse.
“We simply could not make no photographs,” stated Leonard, who shot 1-for-11 within the second half. “That is in the case of the workforce chemistry, figuring out what we should always run to get the ball in spots or simply if somebody’s getting doubled or they’re packing the paint, attempt to make different guys make photographs, and we gotta know what actual spots we should be.
“And you realize, simply gotta carry over and get smarter as a workforce. Get smarter. Basketball IQ received to get higher.”
Within the largest recreation of the season, Leonard and George mixed to shoot 10-for-38, together with 4-for-18 from past the arc, for a complete of 24 factors in Recreation 7. As soon as issues started unraveling within the second half for the third straight recreation, the Clippers seemed fully paralyzed, and the Nuggets outscored them 50-28 over the ultimate 22 minutes, 50 seconds.
“I used to be by no means comfy. I simply wasn’t,” Rivers stated of the Clippers’ 3-1 collection lead. “I simply knew conditioning-wise, like, we had guys that simply could not play minutes, and that is exhausting, you realize. I imply, there have been two or 3 times an evening the place we really began getting it going, and a man needed to come out. I imply, it’s what it’s. So no, I used to be by no means comfy. I can let you know that up entrance. I instructed our coaches that.”
It has been a battle all season for the Clippers to search out chemistry. Leonard and George slowly labored their manner again from accidents coming into the season. Meshing the 2 stars with final season’s gritty group of veterans who overachieved was a chore. Plus, the Clippers handled fixed interruptions from accidents to midseason additions. As soon as they began displaying a glimpse of coming collectively, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the season was halted for four-plus months.
Not lengthy after they arrived to the bubble for the season restart, life received in the best way, and the Clippers had been disrupted by Montrezl Harrell, Williams and Patrick Beverley all having to go away for funerals for family members. The three key position gamers every missed time as a result of they had been out of the bubble and needed to quarantine. Harrell was off the ground for a month.
“A variety of adversity we handled,” stated George, who shot 1-for-7 within the second half Tuesday. “Rightfully so. You understand, guys needed to go house for rightful causes. We simply missed lots of time being along with accidents within the common season and contained in the bubble.”
George stated the group has talked about how the Clippers are constructed to contend for greater than this season. However it should take a while for the workforce to recover from the most recent stain on a franchise historical past plagued by dropping and heartbreak.
“It was apparent stress to reside as much as the title expectations,” George stated. “However as a participant, I imply, you need that. … It is no cop-out. Reality of the matter is, we did not reside as much as that expectation.
“However I believe, internally, we have all the time felt this isn’t a championship-or-bust yr for us. You understand, we are able to solely get higher the longer we keep collectively and the extra we’re round one another. Extra chemistry for [the] group, the higher. I believe that is actually the story of the tape of this season. We simply did not have sufficient time collectively.”