You know what sucks?
Getting dumped. It’s the worst. The first time I got dumped, I didn’t even realize it. Here I was, with a girl who had clearly done this sort of thing before, running down a desperate series of hypothetical situations in which we’d be so happy together. Everything out of my mouth was a “what if” or an “I wish.” Only one sentence came out of hers:
“Wishing is for little kids.”
That was it. I’ve thought about that a lot tonight. I wondered how different it would all be if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were healthy. I thought about how if the Clippers won the Pacific, they would have played the Thunder instead of the Spurs. I imagined a scenario where the Clippers had a coach like Popovich. It went on and on like that for a few hours.
We most often think of hypothetical scenarios only when there’s something wrong with the present one. Clippers’ fans have mastered the art form over the years, but this season has been a journey away from that. The Clippers were finally satisfying enough — you didn’t have to venture out to the land of make believe for your own happy ending. The present was rewarding enough.
It’s funny to think that the Spurs permanently find themselves in that situation — they never have to deal in anything but reality. For the last 18 years or so, they’ve won more than any other team. They have multiple championships. Maybe most importantly, they have unparalleled stability.
Over all these years of unmatched success, the Spurs have had to do their fair share of dumping. Like everything else, they’ve become methodical in their approach to it. They don’t bite on emotional flareups like an inexperienced dumper would. When the Spurs were fouled hard on multiple occasions late in the game, they showed no expression or emotion and calmly walked to the free throw line. Their control of the situation is so respectful that it’s maddening. Shouldn’t they feel something?
That’s Duncan, and that’s the Spurs. They have a job to do, they’ve done it before, and they know the most efficient way to do it.
Let’s deal in reality. The Clippers are not on the Spurs’ level. Tonight’s game signaled no indication that the Clippers are better than the Spurs in any meaningful facet of the game. The Spurs rebounded better. They defended every area of the floor better. They moved the ball better. They even flopped better.
They’re better, and they’re ready to move on.
What can the Clippers really do about it? They can hope for Griffin and Paul to get miraculously healthy, or for the backline defense to get a clue. They can pretend Paul isn’t playing his worst basketball of the season and that Griffin isn’t literally helpless defensively.
At risk of writing the eulogy too early, the Clippers had a good run in this year’s playoffs. They developed an admirable resiliency and figured out their identity as a basketball team. They found a revelation in Eric Bledsoe, and learned the benefits of grinding it out. They answered a lot of their own questions.
None of that should be taken away by what’s happened in the last two games. These losses have taught us close to nothing. San Antonio is just ridiculously good at this. They have been for many, many years. The Clippers aren’t there yet.
I guess that’s why I’d prefer to veer away from the hypothetical situations surrounding this series and how they would affect the outcome. Wishing is for little kids. The Spurs are dominating this series — the one played in reality — and there is little hope for a turnaround. As painful as it is right now, the Clippers needed this to happen at some point, and it couldn’t have happened against a better team to try and emulate going forward. It’s hard to stomach, but to be really good at dumping someone, you need to get dumped first.