Truth telling time, y’all: What’s the over-under on the number of times you’ve made fun of the Los Angeles Clippers this season?
Let’s try to do the math. They have played 10 games thus far in these NBA Playoffs, which means 40 quarters of basketball have been played in total. Assume that Paul George and Pat Beverley have played at least a minute of action in each quarter, and that gives you a minimum of 80 times that you’ve hurled proverbial rocks the Clippers way.
I get it. It’s not like the Clippers have made it hard to root against them. Their irrational swagger rubbed people the wrong way all of last postseason, and the team staring down Maxi Kleber after he was absolutely baptized by Kawhi Leonard on a jam last month reactivated everyone’s passionate annoyance of Los Angeles’ other team.
It’s tough to cheer for the Clippers. There’s all of that, then add the fact that they play in the same building as arguably the NBA’ s most popular franchise. Plus, they’ve never been to the NBA Finals in franchise history.
That’s a shame, because like it or not, this run that the Los Angeles Clippers are having happens to be one of the most inspirational stories this NBA season.
It started as early as the first round against the Dallas Mavericks. The Clippers immediately reignited the memories of playoff failures of years past, going down 0-2 against Luka Doncic and his crew. But just as quickly as they looked out of it, they racked up two straight wins to even up the series before eventually outlasting the Mavs in an impressive Game 7 win.
All the pressure was on the Clippers to advance, considering that many people baptized them as championship contenders because of their terrific duo of Leonard and George. When they were on the ropes in the first round, people were more than eager to help Doncic deliver the killer blow. But the Clippers licked their wounds, made the adjustments, and fought back. Right then and there, we should’ve known they were on the verge of achieving something special.
But we needed more convincing, and so we turned to the Utah Jazz series. How do you ramp up the stakes and stack the deck against you even further? How about having to win without your best player? And that’s what the Clippers did after Leonard went down with a knee injury.
Leonard has missed the last six games of the Clippers, dropping out when the team was in the midst of an intense war against the Jazz in the semifinals. The team only had George as their remaining All-Star, and they needed to find a way to win the series without Leonard, tied at 2-2 with a potential Game 7 on the road.
Well, the Clippers never let it get to a deciding Game 7. They took care of business at home, behind a brilliant 39-point performance from sophomore Terance Mann. It was just the perfect example of the Clippers’ determination. When Leonard went down, Coach Tyronn Lue had to find someone on the team who could step up and stand alongside George.
Instead of finding a player, Lue found his entire team picking up the pieces. Players like Mann, Reggie Jackson, and Luke Kennard have all elevated their game at the highest stage, providing the necessary production that the Clippers needed to continue competing.
And so this brings us back to Paul George, the last remaining superstar for the Clippers in these playoffs. The nickname “Pandemic P” has been thrown around after every loss these Clippers have endured, and after every janky PG performance.
But how can that name be thrown his way when the Clippers have done more winning than losing, with George the main catalyst for the victories? He has battled valiantly throughout these playoffs. He averaged 29.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists against the Jazz, and he has been even better in the Western Conference Finals against the Suns with 27.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists.
The nickname resurfaced when George bricked a clutch free throw that could’ve potentially tied up Game 4 against the Suns with precious ticks remaining. Yet how many superstars have NEVER failed at least once in those situations? Every player has missed a clutch free throw in their career, but only George has an unfortunate moniker attached to him, and that’s a shame.
The Suns are going for the kill on Tuesday, and with Leonard most likely out for Game 5, they have a great shot to advance. But if they do, that should by no means dull what the Clippers have shown. They have faced every obstacle and challenge head on. The “Clippers curse” and even the mean-spirited nicknames that people like to throw at them haven’t fazed the team – these have only fueled them. If anything, this postseason should be the end of that.
Like it or not, it’s time that we see the Clippers for what they are: a hard-fighting, undermanned squad determined to prove themselves capable of overcoming the harshest of circumstances.
If this were any team other than the Clippers, they would be the story of the postseason. Isn’t it time that we throw some shine their way while we still can?