I have never written an article that came with a warning, but this one does. For Clippers fans this article comes with a strict warning. So, if you are a Clippers fan with sensitive feelings, a weak heart and/or unnatural fear of curses, please click here. Otherwise, read on.
My thought here is that the very best way to address an issue is to do it head on. For Clippers fans, the very mention of 2015 brings up bad memories. The realization that their 2020 team, which is a favorite to win it all, is maneuvering through 2015 waters right now conjures up horrifying memories. It would be easy to look on the bright side and move on. After all, the Clippers have not been eliminated. No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit twice in one playoff run. The Nuggets did that to the Utah Jazz in round one. When you add all that up and include the fact that the Clippers are the better team, there is nothing worry about.
That is one way to approach this.
On the flip side of that coin however are the facts that the Nuggets have been the better team in Games 5 and 6. The Nuggets own the momentum and are riding high with a “nothing to lose attitude” against the heavily favorite Clippers. Nikola Jokic has looked like the best center in the Association in this series and the Clippers are having a hard time defending him. Finally, anything can happen in a Game 7.
The flip side does not favor the Clippers.
As an aside, if you are a Clippers fan and still here, please understand that things are about to take a turn for the worse. I know, its been pretty bad already, but trust me when I say it’s best you turn back now and click here. I can’t be held responsible for what happens if you read on.
The current situation the Clippers find themselves in is not ideal. I’m not even sure they would be the listed favorites in Game 7 on Tuesday. Well, I just checked and according to vegasinsider.com the Clippers are anywhere from a 7 to 10 point favorite depending on the book. Unfortunately for Clippers fans, that mirrors the odds for game 6. Which, they lost. But, as dire as things look now, they get even worse when you look back five years.
In the 2014-15 Western Conference Semi Finals the Clippers were matched up against the Houston Rockets. Like they did in 2020, the Clippers held a 3-1 lead. It was, by all accounts, a commanding 3-1. It was just a matter of time before the Clippers, long the doormat LA professional men’s basketball team, would find themselves in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. When the Rockets obliterated the Clippers in Game 5, 128-95, no one blinked. That game was in Houston against a desperate team with their season on the line. The blowout didn’t matter, it was just an L. This way, optimistic Clippers fans said, they can clinch at home.
Staples was rocking and the Clippers didn’t disappoint. The held a 19 point lead in the 3rd quarter and started the 4th quarter up 92-79. The expectation in LA was palpable. The long woebegone franchise, the little brother, the doormat, was about the bust the door down and bust into the Western Conference Finals. Then Coach Kevin McHale pulled James Harden, who had a frustration technical for shoving Blake Griffin earlier, all but conceding the game to the Clippers. The Clippers didn’t appreciate the gift however and decided to stop playing. The Rockets outscored the Clippers 51-20 over the end of the third and in the fourth.
The Rockets won the fourth quarter 40-15. The Clippers were decimated and never recovered. Sure, there was a game 7, but that was in Houston and the Clippers never had a chance. It was only the third time in the history of the Association that a team playing at home with a chance to clinch a playoff series blew a double-digit-lead entering the final quarter. Worse yet, Coach Doc Rivers became the first coach in the history of the Association to lost multiple series after taking a 3-1 lead.
Five years later, here we are again. In fact, its a bit eerie how similar both game 6’s were.
- 2020, the Clippers biggest lead was 19 points, same in 2015.
- 2020, the Clippers were outscored in the fourth by 15, it was 25 in 2015.
- 2020, the Clippers scored only 19 points in the fourth, it was 15 in 2015.
- 2020, the Clippers lost by 13 points, it was 12 points in 2015
Game 6 in 2020 was not lost because some journeyman, older player got hot like Corey Brewer and Josh Smith did in 2015. In 2020, that honor went to Paul Millsap in Game 5. In today’s game Nuggets stars, Jokic and Jamal Murray did the real damage. But the similarities are pretty shocking. It is the only time in the last several years that talk about the Clippers Curse seems to be applicable. Yet, it is where the similarity ends that the Clippers have some hope. In 2020 there is no home-court advantage. Game 7 will be played in a neutral court, which does mean advantage Clippers over 2015, except when you realize that if there were a game 7 under normal circumstances in 2020 it would be in LA.
So, maybe, there is no real positive way to spin this.
The Clippers Curse is not real. It never was and never will be. But, it is undeniable that closing out an NBA team is not easy. It seems more and more evident that these Clippers feel the weight of the franchises past, having never been to a Conference Finals. Those facts, when added to the fact that the Nuggets are confident having won a game 7 just a week or so back, does not bode well for the Clippers. If they are going to finally bust the door down on the Curse, on their past and make their way to the Western Conference Finals they are going to have to do earn it.
This Nuggets team is not in the habit of handing out gifts.
As I dug a little more, I did find one interesting 2015 link that may be an advantage to the 2020 Clippers. The Rockets had a guard on that 2014-15 team that was inactive for the series, but knowing this guard, he was engaged. I envision this guard screaming at his team when they were down 3-1. Pointing out flaws in the other teams sets and generally being a cheerleader and a coach that helped guide his team to the comeback win. That guard was Patrick Beverley. Ya, the same Beverley who is the starting point guard for these Clippers. Its a small glimmer of hope, but who better to whisper in the ears of the Clippers in 2020 than one of the possible architects of the team that led to their demise in 2015?
Like I said, small glimmer, but right now the Clippers and their fans will take whatever is available.
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!