The LA Clippers are done in the NBA Bubble and one man is taking all the blame. Head coach Doc Rivers is blaming himself for the Game 7 loss; his team was eliminated from the playoff series against the Denver Nuggets after an incredibly poor showing. Coach Rivers mentioned the finger can be pointed at him directly for the club’s failure to make it past the Nuggets.
The Clippers Head Home
After everything went totally wrong for the Clippers in their 104-89 loss against the Nuggets in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, Rivers commented that the title hopes hadn’t been great for his team. The Clippers didn’t succeed in getting what many believed all season would be a final showdown against the LA Lakers.
Rivers referred to the expectations and explained, “We didn’t meet them. That’s the bottom line. I’m the coach, and I’ll take any blame for it. But we didn’t meet our expectations, clearly, because if we had, in my opinion, we’d still be playing.”
Clippers Choke With Game On Line
The Clippers wasted an opportunity of a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The team lost double-digit leads of 16, 19 and 12 points in the last three games, respectively, and could never find a solution to overcome their challenges. Even though Rivers is putting the blame squarely on his shoulders, the reality is that the Clippers players simply didn’t put in the extra effort needed to secure one more victory.
The statistics show that Rivers is the only coach in NBA history to lose a 3-1 lead in three postseason series. He did so with the Clippers back in 2015 Western semifinals against the Houston Rockets and with the Orlando Magic in the first round competing against the Detroit Pistons in 2003. However, the Clippers was considered a potential championship rival from the moment the club signed Kawhi Leonard in free agency and traded Paul George. But now, all they can do is pack up and head home.
Lou Williams, who had a weak performance with the team in Game 7, explains, “We’re pissed off. “Simple and plain, we’re pissed off. We were up 3-1. We had two opportunities to win this series, and we didn’t.” It’s evident the team is not happy with the outcome. Williams also added, “I think a lot of the issues that we ran into, talent bailed us out. Chemistry it didn’t. In this series, it failed us.” Williams went 4-for-27 from beyond the arc as the Clippers failed to reach 90 points.
Kawhi Leonard Doesn’t Pull His Weight
Leonard, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, led the Toronto Raptors to a championship last season, before signing with the Clippers in free agency. Leonard said the Clippers need to improve their basketball IQ and develop the sense of chemistry, asserting, “We just couldn’t make no shots.” He added, “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.”
In the most important game of the season, Leonard and George joined forces to shoot 10-for-38, including 4-for-18 from beyond the arc, scoring a total of 24 points in Game 7. Once things started going wrong in the second half, for the third straight contest, the Clippers looked to be in shock, and the Nuggets outscored them 50-28.
Rivers May Be On His Way Out
Rivers explains, “I was never comfortable. I just wasn’t,” adding, “I just knew conditioning-wise, like, we had guys that just couldn’t play minutes, and that’s hard, you know. I mean, there were two or three times a night where we actually started getting it going, and a guy had to come out. I mean, it is what it is. So no, I was never comfortable. I can tell you that [upfront]. I told our coaches that.”
It has been a constant fight all season for the Clippers to find chemistry. Both Leonard and George slowly worked their way back from injuries coming into the season, and there was a lot of anticipation that they would be able to help carry the team.
George said, “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.” After this loss, the team needs to stay together if they want to achieve better results next season. However, based on George’s comments, it seems like they were never really trying to go all the way. That, in no small part, comes from the lack of motivation a coach is expected to instill in his players.