Don’t blame Donald Sterling because the Los Angeles Clippers failed to advance past the second round of the NBA playoffs. Don’t blame the referees for the Clippers’ epic collapse at the end of Game 5, which eventually cost them the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Blame Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. OKC’s two were simply better than the Clippers’ five.
At least for this year they were. The Clippers simply didn’t have a defensive answer for Durant or the explosive Westbrook all series. And you knew that the glamorous experiment of having Clippers’ point guard Chris Paul guarding Durant and taking away his options in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals was just that: an experiment.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers called the move after Game 4, “desperation coaching” as opposed to good coaching. That nonsense was not going to work against the league’s most valuable player the rest of the series. Rivers knew it. Good and tall will always dominate small and good any day of the week.
Durant proved as much as he led the Thunder to comeback wins in Game 5 and Game 6 to lead his team back into the Western Conference Finals for the third time in the last four years. In six games against the Clippers, Durant dropped 30 or more points on Los Angeles in four of those contests, including breaking off 39 in Game 6.
That’s pretty good stuff for someone labeled earlier in the postseason by his own hometown newspaper as “Mr. Unreliable.” Although he had a relatively quiet 19 points and 12 assists effort against the Clippers in Game 6, Westrbook showed why he is clearly the engine that makes OKC goes. His triple-double (31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in Game 2 and his electrifying performance in Game 5 rocked the Clippers, and had Los Angeles holding its breath every time he put the ball in his hands.
Durant may be the Alpha Dog on the Thunder team, but Westbrook has his own Mighty Mite thing going on. If Durant is the toast of Oklahoma, Westbrook is every bit the butter that makes it all better. You might say that Westbrook is the creme in Durant’s coffee. That’s what makes the duo dynamic on the court and a nightmare to opponents.
This year the Clippers were not ready for this two-headed tsunami. With Rivers being the great coach that he is, the Clippers will get the right personnel and come up with ways to move past the second round. The expectations coming into the regular season was to have a team who has never made it out of the second round into the NBA Finals because of the hiring of Rivers.
That was a bit unrealistic considering how loaded the Western Conference is in talent. We saw that when the No.6 seed Golden States Warriors took the Clippers (No. 3) all the way down to the last seconds in Game 7 of the first round in that series. On the basketball court, Rivers and the Clippers will be alright. They will be a force to reckoned with in years to come. That’s not a whole lot of solace for Rivers and the Clippers at this particular moment.
Going through the process is not easy. It never is. That’s life. What the Clippers have to understand is that their time and their season will eventually come. After losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012, Durant and Westbrook are hoping this is there time is now.