A lot of retired NBA superstars stated there is nothing more depressing than losing a Game 7. The degree is probably elevated even more when the losing team is leading 3-1 after four games.
That’s the seemingly theme for the Los Angeles Clippers franchise as the string of heart-breaking losses and early playoff eliminations continues to hound them despite substantial improvements in their lineup.
This team suffered long, long years of experiencing mediocrity until a change in ownership finally induced this franchise to make series of aggressive moves that drastically improved their roster and became legitimate contenders in the Western Conference.
This year wasn’t different. They had to sacrifice a heavy price, losing draft equity for the next several years, in order to bring in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
This provoked majority of sports pundits to rank them as one of the favorites to win the NBA title this year.
Unfortunately, ugly head of Clipper misfortunes showed up again as the team can’t seemingly overcome their tendency to be booted out of the playoffs early.
They again couldn’t get out of the hump and squandered a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets in another failed bid to go deeper in the playoffs.
The summary of record numbers established by the team during this playoffs give a picture of this seemingly unstoppable trend:
1. The Clippers’ failure to reach the Western Conference Finals is now 50 years long. They qualified for the playoffs only seven times in their first 41 years, reaching the conference semis four times. They missed the playoffs only once during the last nine years but could only go as far as the conference semis four times.
2. The Clippers’ squandering a 3-1 series lead marks the 4th time they’ve lost a series despite holding a 2-game lead. They are the only franchise having 3-1 series leads with a losing record after having gone just 2-4 in six opportunities. They now have a 33.3% series win percentage when leading by at least two games.
The New York Knicks lead other teams, all having winning records, in this stat with 13-3 win-loss record for an 81.3% success rate. The Phoenix Suns (9-3, 75.0%) and the New Orleans Pelicans (2-1, 66.7%) round up the top three.
3. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers can’t find a clean way to close out a series in his coaching career when leading after five games.
His team had golden opportunities to put the opposition away but coughed up a 16 point lead in Game 5 and were outscored 44-25 over the last 13:25 of the game.
They again squandered a 19-point lead before getting outscored 56-25 over the final 20:27 in Game 6.
He became the first coach to surrender three playoff series when leading 3-1. His 2003 Orlando Magic lost to Detriot Pistons in the East first round, 2015 Clippers to Houston Rockets in the West semifinals, and now these 2020 Clippers.
Rivers has also lost three other playoff series when his team was ahead 3-2 after Game 5.
These were the 2012 Celtics, who lost a 3-2 lead against the Heat in the East finals; 2010 Celtics losing a 3-2 lead against the Lakers in the NBA finals; and 2009 Celtics squandering a 3-2 lead against the Magic in the East semis.
His unpleasant record of having the most Game 7 losses now balloons to eight. All other NBA coaches in playoff history have not lost more than five.
4. To highlight the Clippers’ playoff futility, in just one playoff run (13 games) during his first, Kawhi Leonard is already in the Top 10 in several all-time Clippers post season rankings: Points (8th), Rebounds (9th), Assists (7th), Steals (7th), Field goals (9th), Three-pointers (5th), Free throws (6th).
5. On the brighter side, the Clippers tallied 154 points to the Mavericks’ 111 during the Clippers to go ahead Game 5 victory in their series. This was the most points a Clipper team tallied in their franchise playoff history.
The other Clipper franchise records broken during this game are: most three point shots made in a playoff game (22), most field goals made in a playoff game (53), highest field goal % in a playoff game (63.1%), biggest playoff winning margin (43).
6. Lou Williams’ 36 points in Game 4 of the first round ties his playoff career-high.
7. After mightily struggling in the first four games in their first round matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, Paul George exploded in a pivotal Game 5 victory with 35 points. He became the first player to score 35+ points in 25 minutes or fewer in NBA playoff history since 1975.
8. The Clippers poured 45 points in the second quarter during their 130-122 Game 3 semis series victory against the Nuggets. These were the most in a quarter in their playoffs history.
By Armando M. Bolislis, game statistics from StatMuse, NBA.com/stats, Inside the NBA, ESPN Stats and info, and republicworld.com