It’s official; the season is over. Sure, there are other games that’ll be played after tonight by other teams but, as far as we’re concerned, the season is over. The Los Angeles Clippers got eliminated tonight at the hands of the Houston Rockets. Give respect where respect is due. The Rockets are the number two seed in a tough Western Conference for a reason and never gave up despite loads of adversity this series and this season. On the bright side for the Clippers in this series, they took three games from the Rockets. I guess, in reality, they could have already had this series won if the Clippers don’t give away a 13-point lead in the latter stages of Game 2 and if they didn’t have another all-time collapse in Game 6 by blowing a 19-point lead and watching Houston win without the aid of James Harden. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that the 2014-2015 season is over for the Los Angeles Clippers. And it’s time we actually appreciate what happened this year.
It might seem too soon to talk about this but the Clippers just lost Game 7 on the road against the Rockets and now we’re sitting here in a zombielike state just staring at the television screen with a pool of tears welling up in our eyes. Someone had to lose. Unfortunately, it was our team. Our beloved Clippers. The NBA’s "Loveable Losers." Another year is in the books but not all hope was lost this year. We saw plenty of awesome things, a few terrible things, and then had a postseason experience that no other team had. We feel like our pet just passed away. That’s what the feeling is like. It’s a horrible, downright awful feeling but it’s okay. There is a sun drenched day beyond the blizzard we’re currently driving through. I promise. It’s there.
The Clippers had a few close wins this season. They had the win on opening night when Serge Ibaka’s game-tying three pointer missed the mark, that thrilling overtime win against the Phoenix Suns when Blake Griffin hit that physics defying three-pointer, and that huge comeback in Portland that saw Chris Paul eviscerate the Blazers in front of their own fans in the fourth quarter en route to a stunning victory. There was also the clutch Game 6 road win in San Antonio to give us another day to live and, of course, the amazing Game 7 home win against the San Antonio Spurs when Chris Paul hit the shot of a lifetime. Those were moments that were unbelievably awesome. There were some key blowout wins, as well. Such as the win in San Antonio by 20 on the second night of a back-to-back, the two 25+ point whippings of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the numerous other beatdowns the team gave to lowly squads this season. In total, there were 17 wins by at least 20 points. Enjoy those.
Yes, there were some lowlights as well. That tough regular season loss at home to the Spurs when the team couldn’t score in the fourth quarter, the tough road loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the loss to the crippled New Orleans Pelicans on the road, the Jarrett Jack buzzer beater against the Nets after the collapse, the Grizzlies loss in Los Angeles when Chris Paul had the turnover with a couple seconds to go, the home loss to the Blazers where the team – much like in Brooklyn – collapsed again, the tough loss to the Rockets at home where Matt Barnes missed a free throw to tie it and Paul missed two shots to either tie or win it, and then there were Game 2 and Game 5 against the Spurs. As well as Game 6 against the Rockets. All of them were heartbreakers. And that’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure there were a few more that could have been listed. But the season was great. Seriously, it was.
Think about what the Los Angeles Clippers accomplished this season. They won 56 games in an ultracompetitive Western Conference but couldn’t compete for a division title because the Golden State Warriors were the single greatest regular season team in the NBA since that Dallas Mavericks squad about a decade ago. On top of that, the only reason the Clippers didn’t get a better seeding in the playoffs was due to the division title tiebreaker but no use harping on that anymore. What’s done is done. The Clippers, by nearly all statistical measures, were the second or third best team in the NBA this season behind the Warriors and, in some cases, the Spurs. Take pride in that. Sure, winning a title would be awesome but only one team gets to win a title per season and the other 29 teams go home and have to contemplate what the hell they’re going to do to right the ship. We’re a tad different. We know what’s going to happen for the most part.
Blake Griffin, fresh off of a dominant NBA playoffs run, will be back next year and for the next several years after that. He’s the foundational piece that helped the Clippers get to where they’re at right now. Without him, none of this is possible so far as how this team was built and how quickly they became good. Chris Paul will still be here, as well. He’s only coming off a historical season for both himself and point guards in the NBA. He, like Griffin, is locked into the Clippers for the same amount of years. It’s never a bad thing to know that both of your franchise cornerstones will be back. It’s comforting, actually. Take solace in knowing these two guys will come back after a fantastic playoffs by each one and look to build upon that. That hunger – that fire – will grow inside them even more and they’ll come back with a vengeance next season.
No one knows what’s going to happen with DeAndre Jordan and his upcoming free agency this offseason but most fully expect him back with the Clippers as that true max contract is hard to turn down. Either way, it’s been fun watching him grow from a second round pick with top five talent into a visual display of aerial magnificence and free throw erraticness. He’s truly a unique player and it’s been a pleasure to watch him grow into what he’s turned into; warts and all. He’s our DJ. As for J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes, they’re locked into at least one more year apiece so they’ll most likely both be back next season barring any major shakeups. And that’s fine with us. Some tweaks will need to be made with the rest of the roster but there will be ample time to discuss that in the future as the offseason unfolds.
For now, actually reflect on the season and think about how lucky we were. The team was without Blake Griffin for a massive amount of time and still managed to finish tied for the second best record in the Western Conference. Chris Paul played in all 82 games, a career first for him. DeAndre Jordan still hasn’t missed a game since Fast Five released back in 2011. Think about how long ago that actually was in Fast & Furious time! J.J. Redick had, arguably, the best season of his career. Despite a late slump, you could make the same argument for Matt Barnes. Sure, there were some downside with other players such as Jamal Crawford’s horrific play after the first month, Spencer Hawes’ disappointing season, and the fact we had to play musical chairs with the other bench spots that ultimately saw ourselves having to use Austin Rivers, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis more than we’d probably like; but it still doesn’t take away from the amazing season that the team had overall.
The team went 56-26. Ignore what people will say about this team as the offseason kicks off and what you’ll see trending on social media and other websites in the next few days or weeks or months. No, it’s not in the Clippers best interest to trade Blake Griffin or Chris Paul. No, it’s not in the Clippers best interest to lowball (or completely not offer) DeAndre Jordan in free agency. No, the Clippers aren’t in the same place with Doc Rivers as they were with Vinny Del Negro. That’s all anecdotal stuff used to earn clicks and get people talking. Folks, the Clippers were a great team this year. An awesome team, in fact. Unfortunately, someone had to lose. And, like we’re accustomed to, that someone was us. There’s no shame in losing to the Houston Rockets. None whatsoever. Especially in seven thrilling games. If you want to feel better, realize that the Clippers beat the Spurs, which is more than the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder could say last year. The team just simply went cold at the wrong time and lost three in a row because of it. However you slice it, there’s no shame here. Only pride.
We want to win a title. That’s the endgame. But don’t lose sight of what brought us here and brought us together. We are Clippers fans. We’re always searching for someone to love us a little more and give us that pat on the back when things aren’t going well. We’re the little brother with hand-me-down clothes and Go-Gurt in our lunch. Next year, we’ll just pack our own lunches and go shopping for our own clothes. Next year, we’re upgrading to club sandwiches and Tommy Hilfiger. Believe it. For now, no sulking. No sadness. No tears. The Clippers players and Doc Rivers wouldn’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves. They’d want us to go about our day and next couple months like the strong-willed people we are. As the Chicago Cubs say, "Wait ‘Til Next Year." And we shall with the Los Angeles Clippers.