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Clippers collapse again as their playoff run ends with Game 7 loss to Nuggets

By Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

Trailing Denver by 15 points with eight minutes to play in their season, the Los Angeles Clippers called a timeout. As players leaned in to hear the directions of their coach, Doc Rivers, guard Lou Williams buried his face in a towel, then spiked it to the floor.

It would only get worse.

By the end of their third consecutive collapse when leading by double digits, a run in which they forfeited a series 3-1 lead and added another disastrous chapter to their 50-year history of playoff misery, Clippers players stood on the bench, with thousand-yard stares, as the Nuggets dominated the closing minutes - and the final week - of this matchup.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the superstars whose additions 14 months ago were expected to bring the Clippers to unprecedented heights, checked out with 84 seconds remaining. When the final buzzer mercifully rang, they walked off in silence.

Denver's 104-89 victory Tuesday night makes it the first team in NBA history to win multiple series when trailing 3-1 and sends the Nuggets into the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers beginning Friday in the NBA bubble near Orlando, Florida.

All season, that matchup had been viewed as likely to be contested between the Clippers and Lakers - teams that share an arena, and championship ambitions this season, but never faced one another in the postseason.

 

Yet all season, there was an unanswered question about how they would get there: Could the Clippers blend their grit from the previous season with the talent of their current roster?

The answer, as seen throughout this series, was a resounding no.

The Clippers lost their final three games after leading by 16, 19 and 12 points, respectively.

In Game 7, they were outscored 60-33 in the second half. Leonard scored 14 points, George 10 and they were outplayed by the Nuggets' Jamal Murray, who had 40 points, and Nikola Jokic, who had 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists.

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