After the Clippers were bounced from the playoffs by the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series, Clippers' Coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that the players were broken.
"When you lose, you lose, and you’re not going to be happy about it, especially if you think you can win," Rivers said. "I thought this team believed that. It was a lot of long faces.”
The Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead by losing three consecutive games to the Rockets, including Game 6 at Staples Center in which they led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter before being outscored in the fourth, 40-15.
After their 113-100 loss in Game 7 on Sunday, the Clippers players were shocked, angry and sad.
DeAndre Jordan said he was devastated. J.J. Redick said it felt like he was at a funeral. Jamal Crawford said it felt like a blur.
The Clippers have never made it past the second-round of the playoffs in their 45-year history. They thought this year was going to be different.
“There can only be one team that will be very happy when all this is over," Rivers said. "That’s what makes sports so hard."
Since acquiring Blake Griffin, Jordan and Chris Paul, the Clippers have tried to redefine themselves. With that roster, the team that was once the laughingstock of the league has made the playoffs four years in a row, and advanced to the second round three of those times.
But they can't seem to break through the second-round barrier, despite having three of the best players in the league at their respective positions.
After the Clippers took a 3-1 lead in the second round, some websites and pundits were calling them the favorites to win the NBA championship. Just one week later, they allowed the Rockets to become the ninth team in NBA history to recover from a 3-1 series deficit to advance.
"We had our opportunities, there’s no doubt about that," Rivers said. "It’s funny, we went from good enough, to now everything I hear we weren’t good enough. It’s amazing how that flips in sports. I felt we were, we just didn’t get the job done.”
Rivers said that despite the Clippers' disappointing collapse, he's optimistic about their future.
The coach said he's going to have one-on-one meetings with each of his players over the summer, and assign them specific things to work on, and coaches to work them out.
"You have the whole summer to get over this," Rivers said. "There’s been so many examples of this, where you keep getting close, keep getting close and then you break through. It’s funny, once you break through, this is forgotten.
"You’ve got to live with it now and hear about why we’re bad, everybody will have their own opinions, all that stuff. That’s part of it. But in sports, you just keep doing it. You keep getting up, you keep playing, you keep practicing. My guess is this’ll make our guys work harder this summer. Not only just physically, but mentally, too. That’s a big part of sports as well.”