Clippers

Utter Failure a Humbling Experience for the 2019-2020 Clippers

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As history repeats itself in LA, the Clippers dropped a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals. This defeat seems to be the worst in franchise history. With being championship favorites and having some of the best NBA talents, everything appeared positive. It seemed a given for the Clippers to make their first Western Conference Finals appearance and maybe even reach the Finals. If there’s anything to know about the NBA, nothing is easy and everything is earned.

Both playoffs series started hot for the Clippers. It looked like they were going to dominate and win in four or maybe five. Questions began to arise, however, when inconsistencies arose. People began to wonder what happened to one of the best teams in the league.

SECOND-HALF COLLAPSE

Dominating the first-half should make closing out the second-half easy. This wasn’t the case for the Clippers throughout the postseason, though. The team led consistently going into the locker room but saw opponents slowly eat the lead away. Out of their 13 playoff games, LA had a halftime lead nine times. Four of those games ended in a loss. What’s more important about these losses is three of them came when the Clippers were up 3-1. They had three chances to close out round two with a lead after 24 minutes and failed to do so.

The two seed led their last three games by 10 points on average. The opponents completely shut LA down in the second half, and the Clippers couldn’t discover their offense or defense. The Nuggets outscored them 181-117 in the second half, and the Clippers couldn’t catch a break. After leading 3-1, they allowed the Nuggets to shoot 57% from the floor with 53% in the second half. Double-digit leads didn’t mean anything for the Clippers.

All Postseason Long

It didn’t just happen in their last three, but all postseason long. They sit among the worst in the NBA in second-half defense in the playoffs. They rank 13th out of the 16 teams in opponent field-goal percentage with 45.9%. Combining this with a rank of 11th in opponent three-point percentage (36.5%) and a 7th-worst defensive rating of 111.6 shows that the Clippers struggled defensively in the second half all postseason.

Things didn’t improve on the offensive side. Scoring just 52 points in the second half (10th) compared to 61.1 points in the first half (2nd) doesn’t look good for an explosive offensive team. The Clippers made 51.2% of their shots in the first half (2nd), but dropped to 43.2% in the second half (11th). From behind the arc, they were making threes at a 40.8% clip in the first half (4th), but that fell to just 32.9% in the second (13th). Although the Clippers’ second-half collapse occurred all postseason, it caused regret in the conference semis.

NO ONE STEPPED UP

The Clippers expected someone on the team to dominate on the scoreboard on a team full of talent. With the former finals MVP, an all-star who finished 3rd in the MVP race a season ago, the sixth-man of the year, and the former sixth-man of the year, this team had some of the best players all wearing the same jersey. All of these players had their moments in the postseason, but no one stepped up. When the momentum was shifting or the Clippers needed a big shot, no one was able to help.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were the most critical stories in the first round. Leonard’s reliability kept the Clippers afloat while George’s slump kept the series close with the Mavericks. The team needed to have Leonard continue his domination and George find his shot in the second round so they could set the tone. Turns out, they did find some rhythm, but it wasn’t enough.

Lack Of Critical Plays

In the playoffs, teams need a player to lean on when times get tough. Someone who makes the critical plays and shots when they are needed. The Clippers have been looking at Leonard to be the savior when times get tough. Although he has been a closer in the big moments, he wasn’t able to do it every time. He needed others and a stacked team to make those big moments when he wasn’t able to.

The Clips made the needed plays in the first round, but the situation was vastly different in the semifinals. They found themselves in trouble early when the Nuggets had a big lead at halftime of game two. This was the only game the Clippers outperformed the Nuggets in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to win. Leonard and George shot just 3/15 in that second half, with George making all three field goals. When your two best players are having trouble making shots, who can step up and make up for it? No one made their presence known and the Clippers fell short.

Going into game five, teams up 3-1 in the playoffs had a 244-12 record. The Clippers had some momentum on their side and prepared to close out. This is when the Clippers needed players to step up. Leonard is always going to be making shots, but how many will he miss? George is going to be shooting but will he find his rhythm? Who’s going to be the third guy? Lou Williams? The sixth-man of the year Montrezl Harrell?

It turned out to be no one. Leonard and George scored points but didn’t play efficiently enough. No one kept their composure. Before they knew it, they were down 20 in the fourth quarter with under two minutes to go. Their season was over and they were left wondering how they arrived to this position.

CHEMISTRY PROBLEMS

Team chemistry was a troublesome question going into this season. What will adding two ball-dominant players do for togetherness? How will the rest of the players handle adding two players who expect to be leaders right away? Who will be the leader? All these questions were answered pretty quickly once the Clippers started succeeding with Leonard and once George returned from injury. The one thing they didn’t have the answer to is how they all played together. It took the whole season for the Clippers to have every player healthy, and they were successful once they did. The most important question is how well would they play in the postseason together?

When the playoffs started everything appeared normal, but inconsistency struck and it seemed like they were relying on Leonard and George to do everything. The team found themselves in panic mode at times they were down and needed to relax and run the offense. Moving the ball to find the best shot is what the Clippers need to improve, not forcing shots and trying to draw fouls. During the offseason, they will learn how to play with each other and will learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

Another disappointing ending to a Clippers season has the franchise and fanbase wondering what to do next. It felt like this year was the chance the Clippers had with all the talent on one team. Losing is one problem, but squandering a 3-1 lead is more heartbreaking than losing at the buzzer because you had multiple chances to close it out. The Clippers will need to regroup and learn how to play better together.

Stats taken from stats.nba.com and basketball-reference.com

About Jordan Taylor

Los Angeles Clippers Writer. Email: jtfsu@outlook.com | Twitter: @jtfsu98

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