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As soon as down Three-1 within the sequence, the Nuggets finished an all-time comeback by means of defeating the Clippers in Recreation 7 in their semifinal matchup and can now face the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Convention crown.

USA TODAY

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard saved returning to the similar resolution to other questions.

At once and not directly, Leonard stated the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t play good basketball of their Western Convention semifinals sequence meltdown in opposition to the Denver Nuggets, a chain wherein the Clippers had a Three-1 lead and misplaced Recreation 7.

“Simply must get smarter as a staff,” Leonard stated.

Leonard says few phrases, however he is aware of what it takes to win championships. He has two rings and was once Finals MVP in each sequence — in 2014 with the Spurs in opposition to Miami and in 2019 with the Raptors in opposition to Golden State. When he talks, concentrate for the message.

“When this staff is taking part in us a undeniable manner, seeking to get the ball out of my fingers, packing the paint, we’ve were given to understand what to do,” he stated.

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Over again, Leonard stated, “Simply being smarter, us having the ability to know what to do in scenarios when guys are taking part in positive tactics and seeing how we will be able to get some execution down the stretch and guys realizing precisely the place they wish to be in crunch time or in scenarios the place you’ll’t put the ball within the hollow. The ones are the massive issues. That’s what championship groups have. They’ve chemistry. … They know precisely what to do.”

In the ones crunch-time moments, the Clippers had been useless in opposition to Denver. That’s now not what the Clippers anticipated once they traded their long term for the existing to signal Leonard and obtain Paul George, who stated, “internally, we’ve got all the time felt, this isn’t a championship-or-bust 12 months for us.”

That’s now how the Clippers’ go out is perceived these days. A second-round loss is a bust.

In Leonard’s thoughts, the Clippers didn’t have the basketball IQ required to thrive within the playoffs, and to be truthful, the bubble introduced distinctive demanding situations that impacted groups in several tactics.

However don’t fail to remember, the Clippers now not handiest had a Three-1 lead, that they had a 16-point lead in Recreation five, a 19-point lead in Recreation 6 and a 12-point lead in Recreation 7. They lacked a finisher’s mentality.

The Clippers had abysmal moment halves of the overall 3 video games of an epic cave in. In the second one part of the overall 3 video games of the sequence, the Nuggets averaged 60.Three issues and shot 57% from the sphere and 53.Three% on Three-pointers. The Clippers: 39 issues in line with moment part, 30.2% from the sphere and 24.6.% on Three-pointers.

Leonard isn’t immune from complaint. In Video games five, 6 and seven, he averaged 11.7 issues however shot simply 28.6% from the sphere and 33.Three% on Three-pointers, and the Clippers had been outscored by means of 57 issues with Leonard at the courtroom in the second one part of the ones video games. George’s fourth-quarter stats in the ones 3 video games: four.7 issues, 18.eight% from the sphere and nine.1% on Three-pointers.

Following Recreation 7, Clippers trainer Document Rivers, Leonard, George and Lou Williams all referenced chemistry as a subject. Whether or not all the way through the common season (George and Leonard performed simply 37 video games in combination) or within the bubble (Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley and Williams overlooked really extensive time on the Orlando house campus), the Clippers didn’t have a large number of time in combination.

That is a truth, and it speaks to the loss of continuity and consider. However the Clippers additionally went from a staff that was once full of grinders and overachievers closing season to a staff with two stars. That they had hassle mixing each stars and grinders.

The Clippers wish to paintings on that, and it gained’t be simple as a result of subsequent season will likely be disjointed to a point, too.

As the most productive participant and a pace-setter, Leonard is accountable for serving to unravel the ones problems. The West is making improvements to, and the Lakers will likely be excellent once more subsequent season. Harrell is a loose agent after this season, and Leonard and George can also be loose brokers in 2021. Eventualities exchange fast.

The Clippers had been at the verge of taking part in within the convention finals for the primary time in franchise historical past after which misplaced 3 consecutive video games. The Clippers jinx and the Donald Sterling curse appear actual at the moment.

If the Clippers wish to flip this into one thing that lasts greater than a few seasons and make a major championship run, it’s on Leonard to lend a hand the Clippers play smarter.

Practice Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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