Paul George, Kawhi Leonard Explain Why Clippers Failed
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard fell in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night when the LA Clippers lost to the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinals series.
A team that everyone expected to win the title this year, somehow, didn’t even make it to the Conference Finals.
George finished with 10 points on 16 shots and went 2 of 11 from behind the arc.
Leonard struggled all night long, recording 14 points on 22 shots.
In the second of objectively their most important game of the season, the Clippers mustered up a mere 33 second-half points.
It would be a shocking performance, if not for the fact that the Clippers had already choked away consecutive 16-point leads prior to Game 7 and somehow allowed a team down 3-1 to scratch its way back into the series.
The Lakers and Blazers showed the Clippers no mercy. https://t.co/EwkSNE3pXm
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 16, 2020
“Fact of the matter is, we didn’t live up to that [championship] expectation,” George said after the game.
“But I think internally, we’ve always felt, this is not a championship-or-bust year for us. You know, we can only get better the longer we stay together and the more we’re around each other. More chemistry for the group, the better. I think that’s really the tale of the tape of this season. “We just didn’t have enough time together.”
Leonard, for his part, thinks the team needs to get smarter.
“Just got to build,” he said.
“Build some chemistry and we’ve got to get smarter. We were close, Denver is great. We shot ourselves in the foot the last three games, last two games were pretty much mirrored. Us coming in and not able to score the ball, very hard in the fourth quarter.
“Tonight was a mirror of it. Those are the things that you got to learn and grow from. Denver did an amazing job, their coach did a great job when this team is playing us a certain way, trying to get the ball out of my hands or packing the paint, we got to know what to do.
“We can’t panic if we are not making shots, or I am not making shots. We’ve got some things we’ve got to get smarter at. Even being up double digits in the second half. Just gotta be smart.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers also pointed to chemistry, or lack thereof, as a big issue.
“You know, honestly, I thought just you could see the difference in the two teams,” he said.
“That [Denver] team has been together, we haven’t, and you could see it as the games went on. They just knew each other so well.”
Rivers subsequently suggested that conditioning might have been an problem.
“I thought conditioning, we kept having to take guys out because they were tired,” Rivers said. “You know, we’re in the playoffs,and you had to do it. Guys were asking to come out. So you had to do it, you know. But that’s not typical for Game 7, but it is what it is. You had to do it. I thought it hurt our rotations at times.”
Now the Clippers need to figure out how to move forward and rebuild, despite having limited tools to work with.
The organization traded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026 — and pick swaps in 2023 and 2025 — to the Oklahoma City Thunder for George in the offseason. They also traded away a 2020 first rounder for Marcus Morris Sr., who is a free agent this year.
That means a team which couldn’t even make it to the Western Conference Finals will somehow need to reconfigure their roster without all of the assets typically needed to do so.
The NBA is going all in. https://t.co/BQ335XNu0s
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 15, 2020
Moreover, George and Leonard are only locked under contract for one more year.
The Clippers are staring down a scenario where, if they fail again in the same sort of fashion next season, they could end up with no stars and no draft picks.
There is going to be a lot of pressure on this unit in 2020-21. How will they respond? Time will tell.