There’s no delicate way to phrase this: The Clippers are choking. And they aren’t just folding against the Denver Nuggets, they are doing so in a form so cartoonish that anyone with a passing familiarity of the NBA has to consider whether the Clippers are actually cursed.
Their most recent meltdown was even more breathtaking than their last, as they dropped a 111-98 decision to the Nuggets on Sunday in a game in which they led by 19 points in the third quarter.
The come-from-ahead defeat followed a similar loss two days earlier in which the Clippers wasted a 16-point advantage.
Like that, a series that looked over four days earlier was extended to Game 7, which will be played Tuesday night. In addition to the franchise’s first-ever appearance in the conference finals, a long-awaited showdown with the Lakers will be at stake.
So much for their three-games-to-one edge. The visions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George turning the Clippers into champions are in peril, as the team is within a loss of establishing an entirely different kind of legacy.
Like Clayton Kershaw’s in October. Or Sean McVay’s at the Super Bowl.
As talented as they are, as dominant as they have looked at times, they can’t close the deal.
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Asked directly whether the Clippers choked in Game 6, Leonard replied, “Just went cold.” Of course, that’s what eventually happens to a body after an obstruction remains lodged in the throat for too long.
“We went cold in that third quarter,” Leonard continued. “We kept getting into the paint, passing the ball, got a little stagnant and just couldn’t make shots.”
That’s not what coach Doc Rivers saw. “We stopped moving the ball,” Rivers said. “We stopped attacking on offence.
“It’s funny. Usually, at the end of the game, you just say our defence let us down. I thought it was our offence. I really did.”