Thursday, June 20, 2024

Swanson: Clippers fall flat again in Dallas as season ends

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  • Clippers guard Norman Powell (24) drives to the basket in...

    Clippers guard Norman Powell (24) drives to the basket in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) and guard Dante Exum (0) during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic shoots over Clippers center Ivica...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic shoots over Clippers center Ivica Zubac, center right, during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reacts during the first half...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reacts during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Clippers star Paul George considers his options as the Dallas...

    Clippers star Paul George considers his options as the Dallas Mavericks’ Derrick Jones Jr. defends during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. The Mavericks won, 114-101, to win the series 4-2. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks center Daniel Gafford shoots in front of Clippers...

    Dallas Mavericks center Daniel Gafford shoots in front of Clippers guard James Harden (1), guard Terance Mann (14), center Ivica Zubac (40) and forward Paul George, behind, as Mavericks’ forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) looks on during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • The Dallas Mavericks’ Daniel Gafford celebrates a basket during the...

    The Dallas Mavericks’ Daniel Gafford celebrates a basket during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Clippers guard James Harden drives against Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie...

    Clippers guard James Harden drives against Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • The Clippers’ Amir Coffey, bottom, fouls the Dallas Mavericks’ Maxi...

    The Clippers’ Amir Coffey, bottom, fouls the Dallas Mavericks’ Maxi Kleber during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • The Clippers’ Amir Coffey, left, fouls the Dallas Mavericks’ Maxi...

    The Clippers’ Amir Coffey, left, fouls the Dallas Mavericks’ Maxi Kleber during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) crashes to the floor...

    Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) crashes to the floor after being upended in front of Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) and guard Amir Coffey during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks fans react after a call during the first...

    Dallas Mavericks fans react after a call during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Clippers, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • The Dallas Mavericks’ Maxi Kleber lays on the court after...

    The Dallas Mavericks’ Maxi Kleber lays on the court after being fouled during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Clippers star Paul George (13) is defended by Dallas Mavericks...

    Clippers star Paul George (13) is defended by Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) and center Daniel Gafford (21) during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Green dunks on an alley-oop pass...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Green dunks on an alley-oop pass from Luka Doncic, not pictured, over Clippers guard Norman Powell (24) as Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) and Mavericks’ center Dereck Lively II (2) look on during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • A general view of the Clippers playing the Dallas Mavericks...

    A general view of the Clippers playing the Dallas Mavericks during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Clippers guard James Harden drives to the basket as Dallas...

    Clippers guard James Harden drives to the basket as Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving defends during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • The Dallas Mavericks’ Derrick Jones Jr., center, celebrates with P.J....

    The Dallas Mavericks’ Derrick Jones Jr., center, celebrates with P.J. Washington, left, and Daniel Gafford, right, during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Clippers forward P.J. Tucker shoots the ball during the first...

    Clippers forward P.J. Tucker shoots the ball during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic asks for a call as...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic asks for a call as he sits on the floor during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Clippers, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic talks with head coach Jason...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic talks with head coach Jason Kidd, left, during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Clippers, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Clippers guard James Harden tries to drive to the basket...

    Clippers guard James Harden tries to drive to the basket as Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving defends during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. The Mavericks won, 114-101, to win the series 4-2, ending the Clippers’ season. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Recording artist Bad Bunny sits courtside during the first half...

    Recording artist Bad Bunny sits courtside during the first half of Game 6 of a first-round playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Clippers on Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Clippers guard Norman Powell, center, falls backwards as he shoots...

    Clippers guard Norman Powell, center, falls backwards as he shoots over Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) and forward P.J. Washington, right, as Luka Doncic (77) looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving takes a 3-point shot over...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving takes a 3-point shot over Clippers forward P.J. Tucker (17) and guard Terance Mann (14) during the second half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) drives past Clippers...

    Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) drives past Clippers guard Norman Powell (24) during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Clippers star Paul George puts up a three-point shot over...

    Clippers star Paul George puts up a three-point shot over Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) tries to dribble past...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) tries to dribble past Clippers guard Norman Powell, right, as Mavericks’ head coach Jason Kidd looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, center, reacts in front of...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, center, reacts in front of Clippers star Paul George (13) after getting fouled during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) puts up a 3-point...

    Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) puts up a 3-point shot over Clippers star Paul George (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) congratulates forward Derrick Jones...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) congratulates forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Clippers Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) passes the ball as...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) passes the ball as he falls in front of Clippers forward P.J. Tucker and guard Norman Powell (24) during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Clippers guard James Harden looks up during the fourth quarter...

    Clippers guard James Harden looks up during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) talks to head coach...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) talks to head coach Jason Kidd during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Clippers Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives past Clippers guard...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives past Clippers guard Norman Powell during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic argues with an official during...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic argues with an official during the first half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic steps back to take a...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic steps back to take a shot in front of Clippers guard James Harden, center, as guard Norman Powell (24) looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reacts during the second half...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reacts during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving gets to the basket for...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving gets to the basket for a layup in front of Clippers forward P.J. Tucker during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • The Dallas Mavericks’ Daniel Gafford, left, reacts in front of...

    The Dallas Mavericks’ Daniel Gafford, left, reacts in front of Clippers center Ivica Zubac during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reacts during the second half...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reacts during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd talks with star guard Luka...

    Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd talks with star guard Luka Doncic during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, slaps hands with P.J....

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, slaps hands with P.J. Washington during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic shoots as Clippers guard James...

    Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic shoots as Clippers guard James Harden defends during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) pumps his fist during...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) pumps his fist during the second half of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Clippers Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) embraces guard Kyrie Irving...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) embraces guard Kyrie Irving after Irving hit a 3-point basket late in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Clippers Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic hugs Kyrie Irving (11) during...

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic hugs Kyrie Irving (11) during the second half of Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers on Friday night in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, left, congratulates teammate Kyrie Irving...

    Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, left, congratulates teammate Kyrie Irving as Irving speaks to the media after beating the Clippers, 114-101, in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, right, hugs Clippers guard James...

    Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, right, hugs Clippers guard James Harden after the Mavericks beat Clippers 114-101 and clinched the series in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Clippers guard James Harden speaks to Dallas Mavericks guard Luka...

    Clippers guard James Harden speaks to Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic after the Mavericks beat the Clippers, 114-101, and clinched the series in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Dallas Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving leaves the court after beating the...

    Dallas Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving leaves the court after beating the Clippers 114-101 in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

DALLAS — As the song goes: Inglewood, always up to no good.

And now the Clippers live there.

Their next home game will be their first at the new Intuit Dome. You can put a period on the 2023-24 season: Friday night’s 114-101 Game 6 loss to the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks meant the Clippers won’t ever host another game at Crypto.com Arena.

Their opening-round loss in the Western Conference playoffs eliminated Coach Tyronn Lue’s team on his 47th birthday, the fourth-seeded Clippers bowing out in a first-round series against a Luka Doncic-led Mavs team for the first time in three meetings.

With Clippers star Kawhi Leonard sidelined with knee inflammation, Doncic (28 points and 13 assists) and Kyrie Irving (28 of his 30 points after halftime) proved a considerably more potent one-two punch than Paul George (18) and James Harden (16).

It all went in accordance with the NBA’s current trend: A young star – Doncic is 25 – with much to prove leading his team past an aging, content contingent past proving much.

But who knows? Maybe a young building will spark the Clippers? Maybe the franchise that still, after 54 years, has yet to win a championship will have better aura in its new arena?

More likely it won’t matter: You can take the team out of downtown L.A., but I doubt even a new arena can take the downtrodden out of these Clippers, certainly not as they’re currently constructed.

The 213 Era – aka the What-if-Kawhi-Leonard-Was-Healthy? Era – has been a study in what might have been, and might never be, Leonard’s right knee refusing to play ball for a third consecutive postseason.

Paul George said Kawhi Leonard — sidelined with knee inflammation — “wanted to be out there, wanted to be with us… it was more staff keeping him back.” pic.twitter.com/AqeUxlkevE

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) May 4, 2024

Since Leonard and George linked up in L.A., the Clippers exited in the second round in 2020, in the conference finals in 2021, in the play-in in 2022 (a season Leonard missed recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament), and in the first round each of the past two seasons.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP with San Antonio and Toronto, Leonard was sidelined this postseason after right knee inflammation proved too much of a hindrance in his appearances in Games 2 and 3.

And so, with the Clippers’ best player relegated again to spectator status, Leonard’s high-paid pals’ play lived up to their promise.

They told us they felt no pressure going into Friday’s game. Stuff your ‘must-win’ in a dust bin, they said. “The pressure’s on them to win the game,” Harden proclaimed at shootaround Friday morning, echoing George’s comments immediately after the Clippers’ historically lopsided 30-point loss in Game 5: “If you fail, you fail.”

And they weren’t kidding. Urgency? Nonsense. The Clippers had no sense of it. Not not nearly enough.

All Lue was looking for on his birthday were quick, decisive actions.

But for much of the game, the Clippers gave him a lot of dribbling nowhere fast and tough-shot-taking. From Lue’s perspective, they ran out of gas.

And Dallas was spry, Dallas was the aggressor. The Mavericks swarmed defensively, forced shot clock violations, kept George under wraps. The Clippers gave up 18 offensive rebounds; all 21 of the Mavericks’ second-chance points felt important. The Mavs were fast to the floor for loose balls, frustrating the Clippers, holding them at bay until they blew it open after halftime, outscoring their guests 62-49, and summarily excusing them for the season.

The Mavericks just about blew the lid off their building when Irving danced into the corner and plunged a dagger into the Clippers’ season with his 3-pointer (and the foul) with 5:38 to play, putting Dallas ahead, 106-82.

Standing on business, as the signage all around the Dallas arena read.

Lue said team owner Steve Ballmer stopped by the locker room postgame with some “kind words.” The coach said a few times, “I’m proud of our guys” for taking the season seriously. Remember when a 26-5 stretch in the middle of it made believers of many? It’s a long season, though.

“Especially when you’re in that small group of teams that have a chance and you don’t get to get everything out of everything that you put into it, it’s frustrating,” George said after the game. “But we didn’t do enough to move on. That’s on us.”

Looking ahead, Lue said he plans to stay put, even if much of L.A. spent the day wishing he would switch teams to take the Lakers’ now-vacant head coaching job.

“I hope so, I didn’t come here to bounce around and go all over the place,” Lue said about extending his tenure with his current team. “This is where I want to be.”

George couldn’t be so committal. The Palmdale native can opt out and become a free agent this summer by declining his $48.8 million player option for the 2024-25 season.

“Yeah,” he wants to be back, he said, “if it works that way, absolutely.”

Indications are that the Clippers want to not only to lock up Lue, but to arrange to keep George and Harden around.

That makes sense, though, if only because it will be hard to imagine the Clippers can unwind themselves from their aging stars within the current constraints of roster building in the NBA, especially being so short on tradable draft picks.

So run it back? Take the regular season seriously or don’t, but meet you back here for a short, short-handed playoff blip again next year?

Lue, at least, seems ready for it. Eventually there has to be a breakthrough, right? Maybe in the new place.

“I like our team,” Lue said. “This was a good year. This year made me a better coach, having a team with four future Hall of Famers … it was good for me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, outside of the early ending. I’m ready to move onto next season and get better.”

Thoughts from Coach Lue 🎙️@LAClippers | #ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/s3GqNHoZOO

— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) May 4, 2024

2ND HALF KYRIE TAKEOVER 😤

Kyrie Irving scored 28 of his 30 points in the 2nd half to help advance the @dallasmavs to the West Semis!

DAL visits OKC for Game 1 on Tuesday at 9:30pm/et on TNT 🍿 pic.twitter.com/RjZl7rTZBO

— NBA (@NBA) May 4, 2024

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