A few days later, we’re still trying to make sense of the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff collapse. After taking a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals – and winning those three games by an average of 24.7 points – the Clippers lost three straight games and squandered a 19-point lead on their home floor in Game 6.
“Well look, we’ve seen collapses in sports and in the NBA probably equal to this or close to this,” NBA.com writer Shaun Powell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “But I just think that when you saw this series and just the way the Clippers started out and were just the more talented team with Chris Paul on a mission to finally get to the conference finals, with Doc Rivers being with the Clippers – it all seemed to work in their favor. So I think what I’m tying to say is it really came from nowhere. I don’t think anybody expected it. Nobody expected the Rockets, which is really made up of a team with one superstar and a bunch of rejects – well, one superstar, Dwight Howard and a bunch of rejects – would muster up this much of a resistance. And yet, they did.”
As much as some people want to criticize Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for the collapse, Scott Ferrall can’t do it. Those two guys maybe had some off quarters or some off nights, but they carried the Clippers throughout the postseason.
“I’m with you,” Powell said. “No. 1, I think Chris Paul played like Chris Paul was supposed to play, particularly if you go back to Game 6 or 7 of the Spurs series. I thought he came up big coming off an injury, shaking it off, making big shots. I think he played well. The only thing he did wrong was quote Ricky Bobby in the post-game interview (after losing Game 7). I thought Blake Griffin also played well. But if you look at them, I think maybe they labored a bit. This is where maybe the Clippers’ lack of depth comes in. The Clippers really didn’t have a true backup point guard for Chris Paul. You can’t give the ball to Jamal Crawford or Austin Rivers and expect them to play like a pure point guard. They’re not. And also, you really didn’t have another scoring big other than Blake Griffin. Doc Rivers had to rely on those guys for a lot of production. He got a lot of production from them. But he just couldn’t tap into anything else from their replacements.”
Ferrall believes it’s time for the Clippers to make major changes to their roster. Should they say goodbye to DeAndre Jordan? Jamal Crawford? Heck, Doc Rivers?
“I don’t think the Clippers should and can make wholesale changes, and by wholesale I’m talking about the core of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and let’s throw J.J. Redick in there,” Powell said. “They have to resign DeAndre Jordan only because they can’t find anybody who does what he does even cheaper. It’s just that way in the NBA (with) the lack of quality centers. Say what you will about his offense, he is a dominant rebounder and rim protector. So they’re going to bring him back. I think the problem lies with everybody else.
“I don’t know if we really want to have a long discussion on the salary cap and what they can do and what they can’t do financially and things like that,” Powell continued. “But I think it’s safe to say they have to get lucky – the way the Rockets got lucky with Josh Smith, with Jason Terry. Players like that who nobody really wanted, the Rockets were able to get them cheaply and they came in and played well. I think that’s what Doc Rivers has to do. He has to go find somebody on the cheap and get lucky.”
Take, for example, Gerald Henderson, who averaged 12.1 points per game for Charlotte this season.
“He’s not a guy who would be in great demand, but he’s a guy who can score off the bench,” Powell said. “Maybe a guy like that comes into the Clippers and does for them what Jason Terry does for the Rockets or Corey Brewer is doing for the Rockets.”