The L.A. Clippers will never be able to buy the hearts of the Angelenos. They suffered an embarrassing game seven loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sept. 15, 2020, the final score coming down to 104 – 89. The Clippers had a 3 – 1 series lead against the Nuggets and were ready to coast their way to the Western Conference Finals. This was another failed attempt at taking over L.A.; the Clippers have never made it to the Western Conference Finals in franchise history.
This year the Clippers went into the season with high expectations. According to Spotrac, the Clippers’ payroll is around 130 million dollars. Among the 30 teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Clippers have the fifth-highest payroll. It was all made possible with the financial backing from the owner and CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. They brought in the all-star talents of Paul George, trading away many draft picks to receive him, and Kawhi Leonard, from free agency. Even with all of that money, they could not buy a fourth victory to help them clinch the series.
The Clippers suffered similar losses in the last three games against the Nuggets. In each game, the Clippers would manage to get the lead up into the double digits but could never hold on. Game seven was not any different. Leonard put up a whopping 14 points and George followed close behind with 10 points, according to ESPN, in-game seven versus the Nuggets. They both put on a disappointing performance when the team needed them most. It was difficult to watch the former NBA Finals’ Most Valuable Player, Leornard, have such lackluster efforts on offense. Nuggets standouts, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic played like a well-oiled machine together; the Nuggets showed their team chemistry that could not be rivaled by the Clippers.
On paper, the Clippers had a clear advantage over the Nuggets. They came into the playoffs with a sense of entitlement. It was as if they felt they deserved to be in the Finals already. They still need to venture through the rough patches before they can earn a reputation as the best in the NBA. Leonard has never gone into a season with such high expectations, usually he is playing the role of the underdog. While playing for the Toronto Raptors he pulled off the unexpected by helping them win their first NBA championship. Clippers’ fans were hoping Leonard would do the same while in L.A, but the pressure of having to carry this team to the Finals appeared to have rattled Leonard’s nerves.
As stated before, the Clippers have never made it to the Conference Finals in franchise history. This year was not the first attempt they had at creating a super team. Prior to Leonard’s arrival, the Clippers built a team around the exciting skills of Blake Griffin. The era of “Lob City” was created with Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan, along with current coach, Doc Rivers. They captured the attention of L.A. for a split second and were seen for the first time as a potential threat to other teams in the NBA. Everyone wanted to watch Griffin perform some type of highlight-reel dunk. In 2015 they also squandered a 3 – 1 series lead against the Houston Rockets. They were soon written off by spectators due to the lack of playoff success.
When people think of going to watch a basketball game at Staples Center, it is usually to see the Lakers. The Clippers have their plate full when it comes to winning over the appeal of Angelenos. The Lakers have created a winning tradition in L.A.; they Lakers have won 16 championships and completed other amazing feats, such as having more Finals appearances than any other team in the NBA. They have proved to the public that the Lakers can always be a potential threat for other teams. It is easy for the Lakers’ accomplishments to overshadow the small glimpses of success the Clippers have. People more often than not want to support a team that wins. The Lakers still remained the favorites in L.A. despite their slumps.
It takes time for a successful NBA team to be built, though the Clippers may just need a little bit more time than others. They are still viewed as the little brother to the Lakers’ well-established winning tradition. George and Leonard have the capability to take the team to the Finals. It is up to them to showcase their talents when it matters most: in the playoffs.