Mazurek: Clippers continue to disappoint
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Leading up to the Warriors-Jazz Western Conference semifinal, Warriors backup Matt Barnes told the media that he would have rather played against the Los Angeles Clippers because the nightlife in Salt Lake City leaves much to be desired.
I’m sure the nightlife in Utah isn’t getting the credit it’s due, but that’s not the point.
The point is that Barnes and the Warriors probably should be playing in Los Angeles against the Clippers, but for what seems like the 50th year in a row, the Clippers disappointed in the playoffs.
Now, lots of teams fall short of expectations in the playoffs, but there’s a reason I’m singling out the Clippers.
First, of course, is the fact that they’ve lost before the conference finals for the sixth-straight season, making Chris Paul the NBA’s all-time leader in playoff minutes without reaching a conference final. But sometimes, what’s worse is not that a team lost, but how they lost. And man, do the Clippers have some stories to tell about that.
The narrative goes all the way back to 2012 and it starts out promisingly. In 2012, the Clippers fought their way out of irrelevancy and made the playoffs, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in an epic seven-game set. The Clippers were unceremoniously swept by the Spurs in the next round, but for the new nucleus of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, it seemed a promising start to a new era.
But the hope of Clippers’ fans never panned out. Because over the next five years, Paul, Griffin and Jordan have lost before the conference finals, and in each series they lost, the Clippers held a lead.
In 2013, the Clippers went up 2-0 over Memphis, but the Grizzlies would have their revenge from the previous year and won the next four games to advance. In 2014, Paul and Co. took the first game from the Thunder in the conference semifinals, but weren’t able to best Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The worst of all the losses came in 2015 when the Clippers appeared ready to break through to the conference finals at last. They led Houston 3-1 and held a 15-point lead in the Game 5. Enter the choke. The Rockets came back to win that game and then the next three contests to advance and leave Los Angeles wishing Kobe Bryant still had some legs left.
In 2016, the Clippers again went up 2-0 over Portland, but lost four straight, and just this year, the Clippers were up over the Jazz 2-1, but lost in seven games, despite home-court advantage.
The Clippers weren’t ever the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in any of those years, so it’s not as if they were the overwhelming favorites. But the fact that they held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in certain years says they had more than enough talent to pull out a series win. And yes Blake Griffin was injured for a couple of those runs, but I’ll refer you right back to the previous point: Leads in series means you have the talent necessary to pull it off, regardless of whatever else is going on.
Clearly something has to change in Los Angeles. Either the franchise needs a new coach or a new roster. Doc Rivers was a championship caliber coach with Boston, but losing multiple playoff series after holding leads points to a coaching failure. Making a change there would signal to the whole organization that faltering before the conference finals is no longer acceptable.
If you want to improve the roster, it’s clear either Griffin or Jordan needs to go. Griffin has proven he has trouble staying healthy, and both he and Jordan want to hang around the rim and get dunks. Griffin has made strides in improving his outside game, but at heart, he just wants to put his back to the basket and go to work. And of course, Jordan not being able to hit a free throw to save his life doesn’t help.
Adding another star to utilize Paul’s passing skills is what the Clippers need and potential free agent Paul George may be just what the team needs.
For now, the Clippers need to go back to the drawing board. But at least they don’t have to endure the horrid Utah nightlife any longer.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.