The season has ended for the Los Angeles Clippers but not in the way they wanted it to be. The arrival of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer boosted the team's chance of winning an NBA title but the Denver Nuggets prevented that dream from becoming true. The Clippers bowed out of the semis were left unanswered.
Head coach Doc Rivers steered his squad to an impressive finish in the regular season. The team registered one the best win-loss record before the NBA went to a pause in March and when the season resumed, the expectation remained that Rivers will go all the way to the Finals.
It seemed, however, that the Clippers lost considerable steam in the middle of the campaign. According to NBA insider Marc J. Spears, fatigue caught up with several members of the roster, and the Nuggets bringing the semifinal series to Game 7 led to a collapse.
"Several Clippers were so fatigued during Game 7 against Denver that they struggled to play stints longer than three minutes and asked out of the game for a breather in the fourth quarter," Clutch Points reported Spears as saying.
What transpired in the fateful match backed the claim. As the same report noted, the Clippers look overwhelmed in the last period and only managed to score when the time started running out. When Denver did establish a 13-point lead in that last quarter, it was clear that the game and the series was lost, and so was the dream of an NBA championship.
It was a puzzle though that Leonard and company tired out too early as the first round looked easy for them. Analysts are saying that the Clippers disappointed not because the players failed to deliver. The team simply lacked chemistry and the Nuggets capitalized on that gaping hole.
Moving forward, Rivers will certainly work to further strengthen the team, and Sports Illustrated said the head coach is tipped to return next season. There is no indication from the Clippers management that Rivers is no longer wanted and it makes sense.
He, after all, engineered the team's playoffs appearances in the past seasons, and most all, Rivers plotted the move that brought Leonard to Los Angeles from Toronto last summer. The Clippers remain a solid squad and some tweaks need to be made for a more successful title run next season, and it would appear that management still trusts Rivers to work some magic next time around.
However, the head coach will need to deal with some pressing concerns before setting his sight on the battles to come. One that should worry him is if Leonard will still want to wear the Clippers shirt next season. As noted by SI, the former MVP is a free agent when the season ends.