The Clippers blew double-digit leads in each of their last three games against Denver, losing the series and missing out on a date with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Having failed to advance after taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, the team was left searching for answers on Tuesday night.
As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details, head coach Doc Rivers accepted blame for the club’s shortcomings and suggested that conditioning issues played a part in the Clippers’ inability to put Denver away. However, Lou Williams and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard pointed to chemistry issues as they looked to explain the club’s disappointing postseason run.
“I think a lot of the issues that we ran into, talent bailed us out. Chemistry it didn’t,” Williams said. “In this series, it failed us.”
“We just couldn’t make shots,” Leonard said. “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.”
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising comment of the night came from Paul George, whom the Clippers acquired last summer in a deal that cost the team Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks, and two first-round pick swaps.
“I think internally, we always felt this was not a championship-or-bust year for us,” George said, per Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).
Here’s more on the Clippers:
- The Clippers are now very much on the clock, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who points out that Leonard and George can opt for free agency in 2021. Rival executives don’t expect the Clips to make major changes, but they could make a trade to bring in more talent if they’re willing to take on some long-term money, writes Windhorst.
- One rival executive suggested to Windhorst that the Clippers are essentially pot-committed to their win-now approach, meaning it doesn’t make sense for them to back off now by significantly shaking up the roster. “You’ve heard of the saying, ‘In for a dime, in for a dollar’?” the exec said. “Well, they’re in for 95 cents, in for a dollar.”
- Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) also explored what’s next for the Clippers. As Marks points out, one of the first orders of business for the team will be figuring out which of its major free agents – Montrezl Harrell, Marcus Morris, and JaMychal Green – can and should be re-signed. Harrell and Morris are unrestricted free agents, while Green has a $5MM player option that he may turn down.
- Marks also notes that the Clips could offer a George a contract extension worth up to $128.9MM over three years, if they so choose. George would be 32 years old before that extension begins in 2022 though, so it’s not clear how aggressive L.A. will be on that front.