LA Clippers get to first NBA conference final beating Dallas, Utah before losing to Phoenix- June 2021
What a Historic Playoff Run it was for the LA Clippers during the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The franchise had never been to the conference finals. No NBA team in history had come back from 2-0 deficits in 2 straight series but the Clippers pulled it off vs Dallas and Utah. They succommed to the Phoenix Suns in 6 games but put up a valiant effort despite quite a few key injuries. Star player and now Free Agent Kawhi Leonard got injured in game 6 vs Utah late in the game but LA held on to win the series. Key reserve Serge Ibaka was out all of the playoffs and center Zubac got injured early in the Suns series and missed the last few games.
After falling behind to Dallas and Luca Doncic, LA stormed back from down 2-0 and 3-2 to win in 7 games running away in the second half of the deciding game. What a team effort with different players coming up big throughout from Morris Sr, Batum, Jackson, Kennard, Zubac and Mann besides George and Leonard (the latter was unstoppable with a few huge games). Then vs Utah after losing the first 2 games, the Clippers stormed back and won the next 2 games at Staples. However late in game 4, Leonard colided with Ingles and hurt his knee. They didn’t know it then but that was the end of him for the season but somehow LA pulled off an upset in game 5 in Utah and blew out the Jazz in game 6 with a huge second half turnaround. Patrick Beverly came up big in this series after barely playing in the first series vs. Dallas.
Despite all of that, they hung tough. Paul George played a key roll with his all around play even though he didn’t shoot well (except for game 5 when he was 16-20) and ended up shooting 35% vs. Phoenix. He shot much better the first 2 series averaging about 26 pts per game with 9.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. He got a lot of help from other key players including unrestricted free agent Reggie Jackson, who played incredible. The lineup got juggled quite a bit from each series but players such as Marcus Morris Sr, Patrick Beverly, Luke Kennard, Nicolas Batum and Terrance Mann were huge.
Leonard played amazing the first 2 series averaging 30 pts per game and shooting a jaw dropping 57% from the field. It would have been a big difference had he played vs Phoenix. The Suns were led by Devin Booker, Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton. Paul saved his best for last with a career high 41 points in the game 6 clincher in LA. There were a lot of ifs but the one of the most important plays of the playoffs came in game 2 when LA was up by 1 with 7 seconds left and had the ball. George was fouled but missed both free throws. The Suns missed a game winning shot as the ball caromed out of bounds with less than 1 second left off of LA. Jae Crowder threw a lob to Ayton who dunked it for the game winner. That was a huge loss for the Clippers who still battled but came up short.
There are a lot of moves coming in the off season but it was still a big step forward for the team and first year coach Tyrun Lue. The team has quite a few decisions and have to wait for certain players to decide as well including Leonard, who can sign a player option for one more year or sign a longer deal. The team has chemistry and this off season will be huge depending what players stay and and sign and which players leave. They have let go of pretty much all first round picks the next few years with the trades to get George and Leonard so it will be very interesting what transpires to see if the culture continues or they have to rebuild.
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