Monday, 24 Jun 2024

LA Clippers exorcise playoff demons in Game 7 triumph

Until further notice, the new keyword associated with the LA Clippers in the playoffs is “guts.” It took that to deal with the greatness of Luka Doncic, to fight off a pair of elimination games, to carry all the baggage that followed them from the bubble last fall, to pull through and persevere Sunday in LA in a series where the home team was wack.

The Clippers, historically and here in the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George era, don’t do anything easily. And this seven-game series with the Mavericks was certainly proof of that. They had to furiously rally to become only the fifth team in NBA history to win a series after going 0-2 at home. That said, the Clippers are moving on to the Western Conference semifinals because they rose up and met the challenge of a Game 7 with a 126-111 victory.

And again, until further notice, they gave themselves a fresh new outlook and image.

How long will this last? How will the Clippers do in the next round against the Utah Jazz, who by nature of their No. 1 seed looms as a tougher test than the Mavs? Well, that’s tomorrow’s discussion. For now, the Clippers can breathe a little easier and with relief, knowing they escaped potential disaster and have the chance to fulfill some if not all the promise that this Kawhi-George tandem holds.

The Clippers, you see, began these playoffs with more to prove than perhaps any other team. This was all due to last season when they blew a 3-1 West semifinals lead against the Denver Nuggets. In the Game 7 of that series, Kawhi and George were feeble, especially in the fourth quarter. They were roasted on social media, and George hitting the side of the backboard in the final moments of that series got plenty of mileage and laughs. Kawhi’s decision to sign with this LA team instead of that L.A. team was roundly questioned, especially when that L.A. team eventually lifted the trophy.

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Yet, this LA team is the only one still active. Anyway, the failure of a year ago was very much present Sunday inside the Staples Center, even though you couldn’t see it, only feel it. The Clippers had a choice: Either feed the reputation, or defeat it for once. By the fourth quarter, it was apparent that the Clippers chose wisely.

By then, they finally figured out Doncic, who bamboozled them all series on the pick and roll, who was the devil in their nightmares. He delivered yet another riveting performance with 46 points, 14 assists, and seven rebounds. Luka was so smart figuring out coverages and drawing fouls and applying intense pressure on the LA defense throughout the first round. The Clippers had an idea Sunday: If we run up a big enough lead, and constantly throw double teams and force anyone but Luka to beat us, maybe we’ll have a chance.

Yes, it took them 6 1/2 games to learn their lesson, but hey, better late than never.

Kawhi was the second-best player on the floor in this series, and there’s hardly any shame in that. He followed up a face-saving Game 6 — remember, he was faulty in the closing moments of Game 5 — with another outstanding effort Sunday at both ends. His stuff: 28 points (10-for-15 shooting), 10 rebounds, nine assists, four steals, and no turnovers in 42 minutes. Based on his history with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors, Kawhi was made for this … what happened in the bubble was an aberration. He’s championship-tested and is clearly the franchise’s savior.

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The Clippers also had the support that Kawhi needed as well. Marcus Morris was 48 hours removed from a horrific shooting game (1-for-10) and followed up with seven 3-pointers on nine attempts. Nicolas Batum (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals) was solid all around, especially with defensive help on Doncic and others.

Terance Mann, who tightened up late in Game 6 when he passed up a layup, had 13 off the bench. Luke Kennard, who’d fallen so far down the bench that his seat was in the parking lot, was dusted off and he responded with 11 points in 14 minutes. Those were the bonuses that caught the Mavs by surprise — and probably everyone else, too.

The happiest person in the building was Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who can keep those celebratory court-side gyrations coming. His team will not face a long offseason’s worth of soul searching and big changes, as they did a year ago.

The Clippers, if only by default, are now LA’s team. And nobody is questioning their guts, for a change.


FAQs

Q1: How did the LA Clippers overcome the Mavericks in Game 7?

A1: The LA Clippers showcased their determination and resilience in Game 7, fighting off elimination and ultimately triumphing over the Mavericks with a 126-111 victory. They rallied from being down 0-2 at home, becoming only the fifth team in NBA history to win a series under those circumstances. The Clippers adjusted their defensive strategy, focusing on containing Luka Doncic and forcing other players to step up, which proved successful in securing the win.

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Q2: How did Kawhi Leonard perform in the series against the Mavericks?

A2: Kawhi Leonard played a pivotal role in the Clippers’ success against the Mavericks. Despite facing criticism from last season’s playoff collapse, Kawhi showcased his championship pedigree and delivered outstanding performances on both ends of the court. In Game 7, he recorded 28 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, four steals, and no turnovers, solidifying his position as a key player for the Clippers.

Summary

The LA Clippers demonstrated their resilience and determination in Game 7, overcoming the Mavericks with a 126-111 victory. Despite facing a tough series, the Clippers rose to the challenge and secured their spot in the Western Conference semifinals. Kawhi Leonard showcased his championship pedigree and delivered outstanding performances throughout the series. With the support of players like Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, Terance Mann, and Luke Kennard, the Clippers proved their ability to overcome adversity and showed why they are considered a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. As they move forward in the playoffs, the Clippers aim to fulfill the promise of their talented roster and continue their journey toward the NBA championship.