The best Clippers team in franchise history
The Los Angeles Clippers have zero championships in franchise history. They have made the postseason 14 times since 1970, but they don’t have any Conference Finals or NBA Finals appearances to show for it.
The 2014-15 Clippers were supposed to be the team that would end those two droughts. Coached by Doc Rivers and led by stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the team won 56 games during the regular season and looked primed to go on a Finals run once the playoffs started.
The Clippers averaged 106.7 points per game during the regular season, good for second in the NBA. Griffin led the team in scoring at 21.9 points per game, while Paul was putting up a double-double with averages of 19.1 markers and 10.2 dimes.
Los Angeles began the season with an impressive 15-5 record, and they didn’t lose their 10th game of the campaign until December. “Lob City” carried the Clippers offensively on most nights, but L.A. had a top-20 defense as well and gave up just 100.1 points a night.
The Clippers finished the regular season at 56-26. They were the third seed heading into the playoffs and would be matched up against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the postseason.
No one wants to face Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs in the playoffs, period. Facing San Antonio in the first round is almost like a death sentence. You worked hard all regular season to get a playoff spot, only to see your blood, sweat and tears get you a series against the grind-it-out-Spurs.
In Game 1 of the series though, the Clippers played some of their best basketball of the season. L.A. won by a final score of 107-92, with Paul leading the way with 32 points.
Game 2, however, was a different story. As expected, the Spurs made their adjustments and stole home-court advantage by defeating the Clippers by 11 at Staples Center. The series was now shifting to San Antonio, where the Spurs were basically unbeatable.
San Antonio demolished the Clippers in Game 3, winning 100-73. L.A. looked like it had quit and some thought the series was over.
However, as they had done throughout the “Lob City” era, the Clippers did exactly what their fans didn’t expect to happen.
L.A. won Game 4 in San Antonio, but then came back home and lost Game 5. Fans were sure that the team was going to lose Game 6 in San Antonio and the season would be over.
Behind 26 points from Griffin though, the Clippers won Game 6 to force a Game 7 back in Los Angeles, which turned out to be a legendary game.
On a bad hamstring, Paul hit the game-winning shot with 1.0 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It was his signature playoff moment and he briefly atoned for what happened in the 2013 playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder when he had a costly turnover.
In the second round, the Clippers faced off against James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. Houston had home-court advantage in the series, but L.A. went into the Rockets’ stadium and stole Game 1. Griffin finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Harden, Howard and the Rockets bounced back in Game 2 to even up the series, but the Clippers had a golden opportunity to go up 3-1 if they could win both of their games at home.
L.A. must have discussed that in the locker room because the Clippers won Games 3 and 4 easily to take a 3-1 series lead. There were some fans of the club who were hoping the Clippers could end the series in Game 5 in Houston, but most supporters were realistic and knew the series was going to come back to Staples Center for Game 6.
The Rockets won Game 5 by 21 points, so it was now time for the Clippers to take care of business at home and advance to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Game 6 got off to a great start for the Clippers. Staples Center was rocking, guys on the bench were having fun and most importantly, the team was playing great on the court. L.A. took a 92-79 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Rockets head coach Kevin McHale benched Harden and Howard and had his bench guys in there.
The series was over for all intents and purposes.
What happened next is considered one of the biggest choke jobs in NBA playoffs history.
The Rockets outscored the Clippers 40-15 in the fourth quarter. Houston forward Corey Brewer scored 15 of his 19 points in the final period and Houston stunned Los Angeles, 119-107, to force a Game 7.
Griffin, who finished with 28 points and missed all five of his shots in the fourth quarter, said the team took their foot off the gas. You can say that again, Blake.
The Clippers were 4-of-22 from the field in the fourth quarter. A team with Paul, Griffin and Jamal Crawford on it should not shoot that poorly from the field, but it happened and everyone pretty much knew the Clippers were done mentally and couldn’t recover from that epic of a collapse.
The Rockets wound up winning Game 7 at home by a final count of 113-100, ending the Clippers’ season in terrible fashion.