It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The Clippers weren’t supposed to lose in six games. Not in the first round. Not against these guys. Not this way. There were technical fouls and flagrant fouls. They lost their composure. They were ejected. They played small ball to much success — even out-rebounding the larger Grizzlies, 35-34 — only to unravel from a flurry of Memphis 3-pointers and miscues from their veterans.
In a series many deemed the Clippers to win, especially after going up 2-0, they ended up losing… miserably. The Grizzlies beat them four times in a row by double digits, a feat no team down 0-2 has ever achieved. The Clippers made history of the wrong kind in the postseason. It was disappointing to see such a great season — 56 wins, the Pacific Division title, home-court advantage, the 17-game winning streak, Chris Paul’s All-Star Game MVP award, the bench, the lobs, among other things — end so abruptly. It felt so wrong.
Now the future of the franchise is in question. Will Chris Paul return? What about Vinny Del Negro? Gary Sacks? What are the Clippers missing? Will anybody be traded? It’s going to be a busy offseason for the Clippers. It’s unfortunate to say, but onto the final last of the 2012-13 season:
Recap | Box score
Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: Tony Allen. The Clippers wanted to make Allen beat them, and beat them he did. Allen’s relentless offensive rebounding, transition play and timely baseline cuts carved up the Clippers and, as per usual, his defense was a game-changer.
X-Factor: Punishing small ball. The Clippers employed multiple small lineups and different defenses, but the Grizzlies got to the free throw line a ton (47 attempts) and knocked in eight 3-pointers in an incredibly efficient offensive display.
Well that was…an answer: Popular opinion said the Grizzlies couldn’t shoot or close games or contend without Rudy Gay. This series put a lot of those concerns to bed, and the Grizzlies never wavered from their style in the process.
– D.J. Foster
(Hat tip: @blazersedge)
End of an Era?
Tweet(s) of the Game
Chris Paul: “We took too long to come to the fight.”
— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) May 4, 2013
Lost in the Memphis/Clippers madness: Likely the last time we see Grant Hill in an NBA uniform.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 4, 2013
The Clippers have a Tribe Called Bench and Vinny Del Negro produced an LP full of Consequence songs.
— Jared Wade (@Jared_Wade) May 4, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
Special guest John Krolik joins the crew to discuss Game 6, the Clippers’ season and the upcoming offseason.
Check Your Messages
An Ode to Vinny Del Negro
Was this it for Vinny Del Negro? If this really was his last game as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, you can’t say that Vinny didn’t stay true to what he believed.
A quick pull for young players who make inexcusable mistakes? Check. When DeAndre Jordan had that stupid goaltend in the third quarter, Del Negro yanked him and parked him on the bench the rest of the game.
A heavy reliance on veterans? Check. Chauncey Billups was on the floor as the Grizzlies’ lead improbably got whittled down to two possessions. Billups got the ball on the wing, looking to make one of those veteran plays. He may have booted the ball out of bounds and followed that up with another turnover, but Vinny lived with his vets and died with his vets until the very end.
I am not making him to be the scapegoat, but rather pointing out things that happened. There was Willie Green playing more minutes than Eric Bledsoe despite the fact the Clippers gave up 92 points in the first three quarters. There was a lineup used for an extended period in the fourth quarter that had literally never played a single minute together in the 4,200 minutes prior to tonight. There was Crawford’s 12 minutes. There was an 11-man playoff rotation. Everything got thrown at the wall — zone, smallball — everything.
And you know what? It didn’t work. But Del Negro did it his way.
“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.”
- D.J. Foster
“We took too long to come to the fight.”
That’s what Chris Paul said in the post game presser. Is he referring to the Clippers’ sluggish starts? Was he coyly commenting on the lack of adjustments throughout the series? Here’s what I do know: The Clippers hovered around an offensive efficiency of 115 throughout the game except for the start of the first and third quarter. In the first six minutes of each half, the Clippers had an offensive efficiency of 66.7 and 108.6, respectively.
Maybe that’s what Paul was referring to.
- Andrew Han
All The Small Things
Can there be a dagger in the third quarter? 5.2 seconds left in the period and Memphis has just regained possession after a Grant Hill illegal screen. The Grizzlies inbound the ball to Jerryd Bayless, defended by Willie Green. Wait, hold up. Is that right? Defended by Willie Green?
And there it is: your perfect microcosm of the Clippers’ 2012-13 season. 5.2 seconds guarantees one possession and then a buzzer. You’re going to have a dead ball. But instead of going with a defensive sub in Eric Bledsoe, Vinny Del Negro stood pat with Green, who he had shown exactly no trust in up until Game 6. It was perfect, perfect in a nauseatingly poetic way. When Bayless’s jumper graced the bottom of the net and the buzzer sounded, a 13-point lead seemed insurmountable with a series of lineups that didn’t make much sense all night.
- Fred Katz
A Turning Point
This wasn’t just Game 6 in Memphis.
It was one of the biggest games in Clipper history, deciding not only where this team would be the next day, but also where they would be for the next decade.
A win here and in Game 7 would have brought the Clips face-to-face with a precariously positioned Thunder team sorely missing their second-best player and emotional leader. Maybe Blake Griffin’s ankle is fully healed by the time the Western Conference Finals roll around, maybe Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are hobbled after a series of chasing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson through crushing Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry screens. It’s really not inconceivable to see this team in the Finals.
But now? The Clippers may have lost much, much more than just a Game 6.
This team went down crashing and burning, as only the Clippers could. Jamal Crawford only saw the floor for 12 minutes and I suspect this wasn’t just about his 0-5 shooting. Willie Green and Lamar Odom had more combined minutes than Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan. They allowed the 18th-worst offensive team in the league to score 118 points in a game with the entire season on the line. Dwight Howard wasn’t the only free-agent-to-be superstar tossed in an elimination game.
What comes next is anybody’s guest. Vinny Del Negro should have sealed his firing, but the smart move is never a sure thing given the track record of this franchise. If Del Negro’s back, god knows which of the contributing players from this season will be.
The ever-present rumblings of some Blake Griffin/Chris Paul tension are worrisome, and a first round exit isn’t likely to ease that worry. The Clippers are still a favorite to re-sign Paul, but that could take a drastic swing. His choice to stay or leave sends this franchise in two dramatically different directions.
The DeAndre Jordan situation is a troubling one, considering that research shows free throw shooting does not improve over time in most cases. On one hand, in today’s NBA it’s a liability to have two big men on the floor together who have trouble from the line and from outside 15 feet. On the other, Jordan isn’t gaining any confidence or experience sitting on the bench.
The Jordan situation may be the perfect embodiment of the Clippers’ season. As Jordan Heimer frequently pointed out on ClipperBlog Live, this team had no direction. Was it an all-in, go-for-the-title team? If so, why not push more earnestly for a Bledsoe/Jordan deal that could bring back an experienced player(s) that would be able to play more than 26 minutes in a do-or-die game? If this was a year building towards a bigger goal, why the aforementioned 26 minutes? I don’t know the answer to that, and quite frankly, I don’t think Clipper management does either.
The Clippers had two different goals in mind, and in their haste to fulfill both, they fulfilled neither. Bledsoe and Jordan didn’t get any playoff reps, but Odom and Billups didn’t help Los Angeles contend either.
Where this team will go from here is up in the air, but too many bridges may have already been burned and the damage done. Game 6 was a turning point to be sure, and it took a turn for the worse.
- Jacob Frankel
Clippers will ‘evaluate everything’
Los Angeles Clippers general manager Gary Sacks wasn’t in a mood to say much about any of the major decisions hanging over the franchise this summer in the first few moments after the Memphis Grizzlies knocked the Clippers out of the playoffs with a 118-105 win in Game 6 Friday night.
“We just lost the game. We’re going to let the dust settle a little bit and then evaluate everything,” a clearly disappointed Sacks told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “Our coaches and players did a good job this year. But right after the game, I can’t really comment on it.”
“It” would be the future of head coach Vinny Del Negro, whose contract expires at the end of June.
- Ramona Shelburne, for ESPN LA
Griz get what they wanted: revenge
The Memphis Grizzlies wanted the Los Angeles Clippers, wanted them badly.
The No. 3 seed would’ve been nice, but when the 4-5 matchup against the Clippers came into focus, the Grizzlies were pleased — not because it would be easy, but because it could be redemptive.
They wouldn’t admit to it publicly, but the Grizzlies never shook off last year’s devastating series loss to the Clippers, and it’s been stuck in their craw since last May. The series was theirs. They outscored the Clippers over seven games and outplayed them possession-for-possession. In Memphis’ tortured memory of the series, the basketball gods turned Nick Young into Reggie Miller, graced Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin with supernatural powers, and a Memphis team that specialized in game management lost all power of control.
Fans love the inexplicable, but this is the stuff that keeps coaches and players up at night, and for the past 12 months, there’s been no rest in Memphis.
Until Friday night.
With a 118-105 technical knockout of the Clippers in Game 6 on Friday night, the Grizzlies exorcised the nightmare of a year ago and advanced to the Western conference semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
- Kevin Arnovitz, for ESPN.com