Los Angeles Clippers seek to write a new chapter, turn around their playoff misfortunes
On the one hand, Clippers players admit they feel the weight of past playoff failures — to a degree.
On the other hand, Coach Doc Rivers suggests that it’s a narrative perpetuated by the media.
Wherever one stands on the issue, there are basic truths that cannot be ignored.
It’s a fact that the Clippers have never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.
And it’s inevitable that the media and naysayers will remind them of that reality whenever the playoffs roll around.
So playing the Utah Jazz in a first-round series that begins with Game 1 at Staples Center on Saturday night presents the Clippers with yet another opportunity to scale the championship mountain.
“It increases that desire, that fire to win a championship,” Blake Griffin said Thursday before practice. “But I think we’re all fans of the game of basketball and have watched a lot of great teams and a lot of great players struggle to get to that point. It’s my seventh season. We haven’t won a championship yet, but [I] also know that it doesn’t come that easily.
“Sometimes you have to keep fighting for it. It’s not something that we’re like, ‘Oh, poor us,’ like we’re cursed and we’ve been through all this stuff. But no, sometimes you have to put in the time and you have to go through some trials and tribulations before you get to where you want.”
The Clippers have had to endure self-inflicted trials and tribulations in the playoffs and also have been derailed by injuries.
They have relived the memory of blowing a seven-point lead in less than 50 seconds against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the second round in 2014, a series the Clippers lost in six games.
They have owned up to blowing a 3-1 lead against the Houston Rockets in the second round in 2015, losing the last three games of the series.
They have come to grips with the fact that Griffin (left quadriceps tendon) and Chris Paul (broken right hand) both were sidelined in Game 4 of a first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2016, leading to the Clippers’ losing the series in six games.
Still, in Rivers’ eyes, there the media goes again in bringing up the past and asking how the Clippers can overcome their recent misfortunes.
“I think it weighs on you guys,” Rivers said, referring to reporters. “Really. I don’t think it weighs on us at all. I said that yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into the playoffs thinking about what we didn’t do last year.”
Do the players share his feelings?
“Yeah, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to win,” Rivers said. “Guys, like, everybody doesn’t win each year. You’ve got to keep going after it. And that’s my point. I can name 29 teams from last year that feel like from their not success — if that’s what we’re going to call it — probably want to win it this year. I’m sure some probably feel it more than others, I guess, but I don’t think it’s as heavy as you guys think it is.”
Well, maybe all those disappointments can give the Clippers a stronger mental edge this time around.
“You would hope so,” J.J. Redick said. “I do think you can draw on past experiences, good and bad, and use them both as motivation and as a learning tool. I think for us our theme in every game in this series has got to be: finish. We’ve got to finish every game and that’s got to be the focus.
“Going back to last year, the year before, the year before that, if we had done a better job of finishing in the playoffs, I think we would have had a different overall result. That’s got to be our theme against Utah because they’re a great team.”
The Clippers said there was no timetable for Austin Rivers to return after the reserve point guard sat out the last six games of the regular season because of a left hamstring injury.
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner
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