"We've got to play free, we've got to play hard, we've got to play smart," Rivers told his team before Tuesday's game.
Turns out, they did none of that consistently, and the blame for this finally has to fall on, yeah, Doc Rivers. He's the one constant in all their recent collapses. Throughout Tuesday's second half, as with those other collapses, they again looked unprepared and out of sorts.
When the pressure rose, the Clippers wilted. They stopped taking good shots. They stopped playing good defense. The Nuggets were focused, the Clippers were lost.
"I'm the coach, and I'll take the blame for it," Rivers said afterward. "I mean, listen, obviously I could have done something more. I always think it's me, no matter what."
It was also others, notably two others. Leonard and George went a combined 10 for 38. Both were scoreless in a fourth quarter during which the Clippers made six baskets. Their trademark defense lapsed and allowed the Nuggets, particularly young stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, to run the court at will.
The Clippers insist that with all the new parts this season, and with several players moving in and out of Orlando's bubble for family reasons, they never had a chance to find themselves.
"We did have championship expectations, we had the talent to do it," said guard Lou Williams, who continued his disappointing playoff play with just seven points. "I don't think we had the chemistry to do it, and it showed."
But Williams also cited the obvious, the one fact that will stick with a city's sports fans as they wonder what might have been.
"We were up three to one. ... We should have closed it out, and we didn't," he said.
No, once again, it was closed upon them, the Clipper Curse forcefully undeniable, forever undefeated.
Plaschke reported from Los Angeles.
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