Trailing Denver by 15 points with eight minutes to play in their season, the Clippers called a timeout. As players leaned in to hear the directions of their coach, Doc Rivers, guard Lou Williams buried his face in a towel , then spiked it to the floor.
It would only get worse.
By the end of their third consecutive collapse when leading by double digits, a run in which they forfeited a series 3-1 lead and added another disastrous chapter to their 50-year history of playoff misery, Clippers players stood on the bench, with thousand-yard stares, as the Nuggets dominated the closing minutes — and the final week — of this matchup.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the superstars whose additions 14 months ago were expected to bring the Clippers to unprecedented heights, checked out with 84 seconds remaining. When the final buzzer mercifully rang , they walked off in silence.
Denver’s 104-89 victory Tuesday night makes it the first team in NBA history to win multiple series when trailing 3-1 and sends the Nuggets into the Western Conference finals against the Lakers beginning Friday.
All season, that matchup had been viewed as likely to be contested between the Clippers and Lakers – two teams that share an arena, and championship ambitions this season, but never faced one another in the postseason.
Yet all season, there was an unanswered question about how they would get there: Could the Clippers blend their grit from the previous season with the talent of their current roster?
The answer, as seen throughout this series, was a resounding no.
The Clippers lost their final three games after leading by 16, 19 and 12 points, respectively.
In Game 7, they were outscored 60-33 in the second half. Leonard scored 14 points, George 10 overall and they were outplayed by the Nuggets’ Jamal Murray, who had 40 points, and Nikola Jokic, who had 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists..
With the loss, the Clippers retain membership in an ignominious club, joining Charlotte and New Orleans as the only NBA franchises yet to reach a conference final.
As the Buffalo Braves, the franchise reached three consecutive conference semifinals from 1974-76. Two moves and a new name later, the Clippers next returned in 2006 but lost in seven games to Phoenix. Lob City arrived, but the breakthrough never did. There was a four-game sweep in 2012 by the Spurs, a six-game loss in 2014 to Oklahoma City and a seven-game loss to Houston the following year in which the Clippers collapsed after taking a 3-1 series lead.
That history left Staples Center’s rafters bereft of banners on Clippers game nights. The current roster was built to change that. Kick-started by a 2018 trade of Blake Griffin, the Clippers turned the franchise’s face into numerous players and future draft picks who were, in turn, dealt for more pieces and salary cap flexibility that facilitated last year’s trade for George from Oklahoma City and signing of Leonard, a two-time Finals most valuable player and the highest-profile free agent ever signed by the team. Stars who grew up in Los Angeles’ exurbs of Palmdale and Moreno Valley returned home amid fanfare.
Entering his 14th Game 7 as a coach, experience had taught Rivers the “whole thing” about high-stakes games was making players feel free. Standing in the middle of his locker room before tipoff, he reiterated the message.
On many moments to start, they looked it. Double teams on Jokic held the 7-footer to just four shots in the first half. The bench, the best offensively during the regular season but missing in action for most the series, made their first seven shots, with Williams finding a cutting Montrezl Harrell for baskets like it was January.
Yet the Clippers weren’t free from all their flaws.
Rivers stressed that his guards couldn’t get in foul trouble, yet George was called for three in the first half, along with center Ivica Zubac. Opportunities for easy baskets dried up – Denver’s 10 first-half turnovers yielded only nine points. Harrell’s offensive energy didn’t translate defensively.
Déjà vu hit hardest, however, when a double-digit lead slipped away for a third consecutive game. This time, their 12-point lead four minutes before halftime was unwound within seven minutes. After making five of its first six three-pointers of the second half, Denver led by eight, just 14 minutes from the conference final.
There was no coming back.
JaMychal Green drove into the paint with 10 minutes to play but bounced a dunk off the back of the rim. The Clippers recovered the rebound, then threw the ball out of bounds. Their shoulders slumped. Even when Jokic, arguably the best player all series, sat for fourth-quarter rest, the Clippers couldn’t make a dent into the lead.
The Clippers didn’t score their first field goal of the quarter until fewer than five minutes remained. By that time, their season, and opportunity to rewrite Clippers history, was done.
Greif reported from Los Angeles.
Broncos to send QB Brett Rypien out for first career start vs. Jets on Thursday night
The Jets matchup with the Denver Broncos on Thursday is still going to be a battle of two young quarterbacks. Just not the one everyone expected for the Broncos.
With Drew Lock hurt, the Broncos are going to go with Brett Rypien against Sam Darnold, per NFL Network’s James Palmer.
Rypien came in very briefly for the Broncos last week in their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, going 8-for-9 for 53 yards. That was his first taste of the NFL, and now he’ll be getting his first start.
For the Jets desperately looking for their first win, this is a prime opportunity, as the schedule isn’t too much fun afterward, as SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano pointed out. Rypien is also expected to be without his No. 1 option at wide receiver with Courtland Sutton hurt.
Also, on defense, DE Von Miller is out as well as CB A.J. Bouye.
The Jets are also banged up, but they will have their franchise quarterback as opposed to Rypien looking to get through his first start.
Which 2021 NFL draft QBs work for Jets if they dump Sam Darnold?
Every week during the 2020 NFL season, we’re going to — just being honest here — overreact to what we’ve seen on the field the previous Sunday and start projecting NFL draft prospects to teams that might need help at certain spots.
Think of it as a mini one-team mock draft, with early (Rounds 1-2), middle (Rounds 3-5) and late (Round 6 and later) prospects at each team’s respective position of concern.
This week’s NFL draft makeover is the New York Jets. Would they really make another change at quarterback?
By next April, the Jets might be drafting their eighth quarterback since 2011 and their 10th since 2008. Four of those selections came in the top 51 overall, too.
And yet, the 0-3 Jets appear to have a broken man at quarterback in Sam Darnold. Sunday, he threw three interceptions. Two were run back for touchdowns, and one came in the red zone.
Although the idea of giving up on a quarterback who doesn’t turn 24 years old until next June feels like some Jets-level folly, it’s hard to see a path to success right now for him in New York. That’s even while evaluating him fairly in an offense with one very good offensive lineman, a shorthanded backfield and receivers who don’t separate. Oh yeah, and a head coach who might be gone in due time.
None of this is fertile terroir for growth.
But sometimes that just doesn’t matter. It’s highly possible that the Jets just decide to pivot in a new QB direction, especially if there’s a different head coach who might want to handpick Darnold’s successor. Neither that person nor general manager Joe Douglas have any real binding to Darnold heading into Year 4, perhaps after the Jets decline to pick up his fifth-year option.
So let’s say they trade him to Chicago or Pittsburgh or somewhere else. What direction might the Jets go in for their next quarterback? There are options, including the most obvious one.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Look, it’s the obvious choice — and the prospect who clearly allows the Jets to save some face while admitting defeat on Darnold.
In order to punt on the former No. 3 overall pick, one whom the Jets traded three second-round picks to move up for, they must have a two-in-the-bushel kind of prospect. That’s Lawrence right now. And even by the time the 2021 NFL draft rolls around, there still might not be another on his level.
If the Jets end up with the first overall pick, it would be nearly impossible not to pick him. Lawrence might not be a perfect prospect, as there is no such thing, but he is as close to a universally appreciated QB prospect that has entered the league since Andrew Luck in 2012.
Don’t forget that the Jets also own the Seattle Seahawks’ first- and third-round picks next year from the Jamal Adams trade that can be used as ammo to move up if needed.
The decision to punt Darnold and go with, say, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance — both of whom have tremendous upside — wouldn’t be as clear cut. Taking either in the top 10 (and it perhaps requires being in the top five) would come with far more scrutiny and question. Neither has the floor as prospects that Lawrence has, even if all three have very high ceilings.
Earning the top pick and the shot at Lawrence might also be a good bargaining chip for Douglas to handpick his next head coach. It would be hard to imagine a candidate on the Eric Bieniemy/Brian Daboll/Greg Roman spectrum not wanting to build an offense around Lawrence and OT Mekhi Becton, willing to look past some of the obvious pitfalls of taking the Jets’ job.
An overwhelming offer to trade the first overall pick might be tempting. But if the Jets want to change quarterbacks and own that selection, there’s only one route they should consider taking.
When was the last time the Jets had a QB prospect this alluring? It has been a long time. And given how Lawrence — the poster boy of college football since winning the national title as a freshman — has handled the spotlight, we suspect he wouldn’t melt under the white-hot glare of the Big Apple.
D’Eriq King, Miami
Will you allow us some latitude here? Our mid-round and late-round picks are truly big guesses at this moment; for all we know, King might be the late-rounder and our late-rounder the earlier-drafted player. There’s a lot of college football left, along with the pre-draft process, to sort this all out.
Time changes a lot.
At this stage of the 2018 college season, Kyler Murray was a future baseball player. And at a similar stage last year, Joe Burrow was by no means locked in as a first-round pick. (For proof of the latter, go see the reaction to us putting Burrow at No. 30 overall nearly one year ago today. In short: We got laughed at … for having him too high.)
So the idea of slotting King — a 5-foot-8, 190-pound QB with a few very good games this season — feels a bit foolhardy now. He’s still unusually short and small-framed for the position, has missed on some deep throws (especially to his right) and is clearly benefitting from offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s system.
However, we just have a feeling that there’s some magic in King’s game. The Kyler Murray comparisons from draft media will be inevitable if King keeps this up, perhaps with some Russell Wilson comps mixed in for good measure. And yet we wrote a whole story recently about how some teams have yet to put a stamp on his future position yet.
Still, some see a quarterback who stresses defenses with his arm, legs and improvisation skills. He won’t be a QB for everyone, mind you. But if we can dip back into that Bieniemy/Daboll/Roman group for a moment, all three have made their recent names in the NFL by deconstructing the modern NFL offense and building it around the unique skills of their quarterbacks.
So where does he fit in the draft? This works for now. In two months, he could be skyrocketing up people’s lists, or he could be back on the Day 3 radar.
If the Jets want to draft a QB with some pizzazz, name value and intriguing upside, perhaps one whom a clever offensive-minded coach could build an offense around, then King is a fine prospect. He’s changing the face of the Hurricanes program the way the Jets could use some face changing.
They still have 2020 fourth-rounder James Morgan on the roster, and he’s someone worth developing until proven otherwise. But since 2007, only two of the 20 fourth-round QBs drafted — Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins — have started more than 10 games in the NFL.
Kenny Pickett, Pitt
Pickett opened our eyes a bit more than we expected in the Panthers’ opener against Austin Peay, was just fine against a good Syracuse secondary and then was back on the upswing last week against Louisville.
But on the whole, he’s on the rise. If this continues, perhaps Pickett graduates beyond the “late-round” category. Right now, we are slotting him in this range because that’s where his summer grades mostly fell.
However, through three games, Pickett has improved the catchability of his passes, played under more control out of structure and better used his eyes and arm to manipulate defenses.
He’s got some toughness to him as a scrambler, plays with a swashbuckling style and has started to attack more vertically, with a yards-per-attempt average that’s a full yard ahead of his 2019 totals. On throws 10 yards and longer down the field, Pickett is 16-of-32 passing for 425 yards, three TDs and one pick.
Don’t be too dismayed by that completion percentage; that also includes at least four drops. Pickett has been killed by dropped passes — 10 so far this year — since he earned a starting job. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s tied for first in that category this year and ranked No. 2 in the country in 2019 with 36 passes dropped, three fewer than Tulsa’s Zach Smith.
Like King, though, his draft stock remains quite fluid right now. Projecting where he’ll land is pretty pointless. What we do know is that he’s helped his cause so far.
But is he an upgrade over Morgan, Mike White or any other younger QB on the Jets’ roster? It’s a fair question. That’s why the idea of the Jets drafting a quarterback on Day 3 just doesn’t feel all that likely. They’ve had plenty of bodies at the spot; what they need is a true difference maker.
If you’re a believer that Pickett is going to ascend beyond this level — or if you’re in the give-Darnold-another-year camp — perhaps we can interest you in Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson, sort of a Trace McSorley-meets-Brad Smith type of prospect.
Thompson is off to a great start and could be a late pick because of his toughness, athleticism and moxie.
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Wizards guard Bradley Beal purchases $6.8M Los Angeles home
Bradley Beal purchases a $6.8M Los Angeles home originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Wizards star Bradley Beal just made some major noise in the housing and NBA markets with his recent purchase of one of the largest homes in L.A.’s Venice neighborhood, Monday.
According to Dirt, Beal purchased a 7,200 square foot mansion with 5 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms. This Architecture West home cost him around $6.8 million, “the seaside enclave’s priciest residential deal of 2020, and the biggest transaction since last November.”
The house is absolutely stunning, coming equipped with a pool/spa combo with waterfall, powder room, maid’s quarters downstairs, theater, wet bar, lounge area, and a gaming area.
Now that we’re past the details, let’s address the elephant in the room. Venice. Los Angeles.
L.A. is the home of two of the most famous, and competitive, franchises in the NBA right now: Lakers and Clippers.
The Lakers are doing pretty well you could say, preparing for their first Finals appearance since 2010 behind “Year 17” LeBron James and superstar Anthony Davis. The Clippers, on the other hand, are in need of a new head coach after firing Doc Rivers following a second round exit to the Denver Nuggets in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
The rumors, jersey swapped fan-art, and mock-trades will certainly ramp up a notch on social media after Beal’s recent purchase. Beal revealing that him and close friend, Clippers forward Paul George, were together the day of the blockbuster trade in 2019 which sent PG from Oklahoma City to L.A., is certain to add a little fuel to the fire as well.
It’s common for NBA stars to have multiple homes in different markets, especially players of Beal’s caliber, so no need to overreact just yet. However, Beal is coming of a historic individual season with no NBA issued awards or honers to show for it for a team we have no clue will be competitive in 2021 even with John Wall returning.
Beal has three years and $64M remaining on his contract with the Wizards, just in case anyone was wondering.
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