Title favorites exiting the playoffs early is always met with stark criticism and rightly so. On top of that, the LA Clippers lost to a team that didn’t have a realistic chance of getting past them in the second round according to media pandits. After a devastating game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers and especially Paul George were trolled by fans and the NBA community alike. Although Kawhi Leonard had an impressive postseason run, he shrank when he was needed in the second half of Game 7.
However, Paul George struggled throughout the series shooting less than 20% from the field every night. Losing to a young team like the Denver Nuggets with little to no playoff experience is a stain on the armor regardless.
This lead to the revelation of someone hostile lockerroom stories when Paul George made an attempt to boost team morale. He was met with ‘eye rolls and bewilderment’ from the Clippers roster. There were rumors about altercations between Paul George and the 6th man of the year Montrezl Harrell. Their verbal spat was not just because of his disappointing performance, but due to his lack of accountability.
In the postgame locker room Tuesday night, George was preaching to teammates to remain committed, for all the players to return to the team this offseason and stay ready to make another run. It was met by some eye rolls and bewilderment, sources said, because George did not back up his words with action in the series and the team has multiple free agents with decisions to make. George scored 10 points on 4 of 16 shooting and 2 of 11 from 3-point range in the Game 7 defeat.
While trading Paul George is not the front office’s first priority at the moment, getting rid of coach Doc Rivers, who is known for blowing several 3-1 leads in his career, has become one. Despite Paul George’s words of encouragement for the approaching 2020-21 NBA season, the team’s chances of sticking together are thin if they fail to win a title next year. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George enter free agency in 2021.
Was Paul George the sole reason behind LA Clippers’ loss?
Looking back carefully, Los Angeles Clipper lacked chemistry right from the Dallas Mavericks series. Mavs had a legitimate chance of beating them if not for Kristaps Porzingis’ injury. As they lucked their way out of round 1, the obvious lack of chemistry haunted them in the second round against a team like Denver Nuggets.
While it is true that the 2020 postseason was one of Paul George’s worst playoff run in his 9-year long career, he is clearly being used as the scapegoat in the situation. Kawhi Leonard was the only player on the Clippers roster who came on to the floor with an intent to win. He had 2 bad games against Denver Nuggets however, the Clippers bench has escaped the blame seamlessly with all the lights on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The LA Clippers team that came back down 31 against Golden State Warriors and gave them half their playoffs losses last year is not the same anymore. Lou Williams averaged 12.8 and 4.2 assists this season with no considerable change in minutes played. However, he averaged 21.7 points and 7.7 assists in the season before and the difference is huge keeping in mind that his time on the court was approximately the same. Another big name that pops up is Montrezl Harrell, whose performance deteriorated in every aspect this season averaging only 10 points per game, and 0.4 assists at much less efficiency.
In addition, LA Clippers traded Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Danilo Gallinari and first-round picks for Paul George, crippling their future entirely in case Kawhi Leonard and PG decide to leave in 2021. Shai Gileous Alexander was also an important role player for the Clippers last season who is making a name for himself under Chris Paul’s leadership in OKC.
Marcus Morris, Clippers’ starter this season, scored in single digits in the last two games against the Denver Nuggets which is not being discussed enough. He played close to 30 minutes per game which makes his contribution equally important for the team.
All in all, Kawhi Leonard can be excused one offnight and his performance was not the reason behind their loss and neither was Paul George’s. The team as a whole lacked chemistry and was extremely overconfident at times which caused their doom. These incredibly talented players can definitely make a successful championship run next year if they reflect on their performance individually instead of finding a scapegoat to blame everything on.
However, if they fail to make a legitimate run next year, that would be the end of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s partnership.