In 2006, my Uncle took my 10-year-old self to Game 5 of the Clippers vs. Nuggets 1st Round series. The Clippers were up 3–1 in the series, and my Uncle knowing I was a Clippers fan, bought the best tickets he could afford, knowing that the Clippers had never won a playoff series in LA. That game was one of the best days of my life. After a close first half, the Clippers would go on to eviscerate the Nuggets in the second half, all while I yelled and cursed out Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby. At one point, a very attractive Asian woman asked to take a photo with me because she was so shocked a 10-year-old could be so passionate about the Clippers. Looking back, I was probably exhibiting clown behavior; however, with the Clippers winning a playoff series and my Uncle promising Jack In The Box on the way home, I was on top of the world.
Fast-forward to 2021. I’m 24-years-old, in my apartment, forced to watch Game 2 of the Mavericks/Clippers on an illegal stream on my laptop since I have no access to NBATV. To make matters worse, the only working stream I found had the Mavericks broadcasting team on commentary. Watching your favorite team lose a home game while listening to the homer announcers of the opposite team is a gutting experience I would not wish on my enemies. This viewing experience was the exact opposite of how I felt in 2006. At no point in the game did I feel confident about anything the Clippers were doing, even when they would come back and take the lead as they did at the end of the first half. Every basket felt like an unnecessary struggle, and every defensive possession felt like I was watching a team that had a 40 point lead when in reality, it was a close game.
It hurts watching your team try their hardest and lose a close playoff game to a better, more talented team. Watching your favorite team lose despite being more talented because of poor coaching and being riddled with ego/heartless players who do not give a shit about anyone but themselves is like having multiple knives jabbed into you and then having them all twisted at once.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are fantastic individual basketball players — they are scoring at a level that superstar players should. Yet, there is an evident individualism in the way they play. While Kawhi can deconstruct any player in 1 on 1 play at either end of the court, the robotic nature of his style of play as the #1 guy is uninspiring to the rest of the team. When he throws a pass, it feels more out of functionality, rather than him looking to set up his teammates. On the Spurs, Kawhi had Timmy, Tony, Manu, and even Pop as the team’s leaders; with the Raptors, he had Lowry, and on the Clippers, he is not the guy who pushes others to be better.
Meanwhile, Paul George is trying to do what he believes the media and the fans want. He wants to put up points, so he doesn’t get called Pandemic P when in reality, the best playoff version of Paul George was the guy on the Pacers who was a defensive player of the year-level guy. There also has to be some level of jealousy from PG watching Kawhi take people on so easily in isolation situations. On paper, consider the landscape of the modern NBA; Kawhi and PG should be an all-time duo, but they just aren’t, and the only way you can inspire change at this point is from the top, to which Tyronne Lue has done an atrocious job.
Lue has been way too patient for a series that began slipping out of her hands five minutes into game one in terms of the rotation. It was abundantly clear that Ivica Zubac has no place in this series; he cannot defend any of the Dallas guards or wings off the dribble on a switch (which is vital to note since Lue insists they switch everything as if the Clippers are playing against the 2017 Warriors). He is enabling Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson to take as many bad shots as they want in a way that would make you think they are actually Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Along with all that, Lue isn’t making real use of any high-energy players who would be willing to be the role-players that Kawhi/PG need, such as Terrance Mann or Luke Kennard. The problem with players like Morris, Jackson, Rondo, and Beverley, is that they believe they are the alpha when on the court, and a personality like Kawhi isn’t going to shut them down and keep them in place as a Kobe or Jordan or LeBron would.
Sincerely, kudos to Dallas. It must feel amazing to have Luka Doncic. He is everything you want in a star and more. His ability to pick apart a defense with his scoring and passing is on another level. Jalen Brunson is the perfect Mavericks backup point guard; he is if Devin Harris and JJ Barea had a baby. Kleber is woefully underrated, THJ has been fantastic, and Dorian Finney-Smith finally being able to shoot a basketball has turned him into a legit asset. Also, Kristaps is a guy. They are a great NBA team, and I hold no ill-will towards them. Other than when Zubac guards Luka because whenever that happens, my feelings get hurt.
As the Clippers enter game 3, I am ready for the worst. Personally, I’m hoping for a miracle and for this team to become what I wanted. Yet, I am not going to hold my breath and am not sure whether I will even watch all of Game 3. I fear that if I do, I might snap my laptop in half out of anger — which I must note, I am not an angry person, I just happened to fall in love with a basketball team when I was eight years old, and currently, the longest and deepest non-familial relationships of my life is putting me through intense pain.
Clips in 7.