Paul George was the guy who seemed off in the Clippers’ Game 7 loss to Denver — and it’s not just his shot off the side of the backboard or his 2-of-11 shooting from during the game. It was his comments after the game that “this is not a championship-or-bust” season for the Clippers when everyone in the organization, top-to-bottom, had been saying it was. It was his postgame dismissal of the pressure or the need to make changes.
Early in the second quarter, a struggling George had committed two careless turnovers in less than a minute. The second mishap was a half-court pass to Harrell, who was near the paint but surrounded by Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Murray picked off the pass…
Harrell approached his teammate about the risky pass, with George not taking responsibility and arguing the pass could have been caught had Harrell made the right play, sources said…
Harrell responded with something along the lines of, “You’re always right. Nobody can tell you nothing,” and expletives were uttered from both players, sources said. George eventually toned down his rhetoric, but a heated Harrell wasn’t having it. Teammates began clapping on the sideline, in part to disguise what was going on and in an attempt to defuse the situation. The incident deescalated shortly after as coach Doc Rivers took his seat to go over the game plan.
Those are the frustrations of a team coming apart in a playoff game, players get on each other and point fingers.
It also points to something Kawhi Leonard said postgame — the Clippers have to play higher IQ basketball. They made too many mental mistakes, had too many lapses. Which is spot on. The lack of chemistry was obvious, and then players just got tight and missed shots. There is plenty of blame to go around for the Clippers — Doc Rivers was slow to make adjustments, sticking with playing Harrell against Jokic, or doubling Jokic, when that was not working. The Clippers thought they could flip the switch, but they had never flipped it before, so it wasn’t something they knew how to do.
Haynes also makes it clear that Rivers will be back next season. That was never in question outside some talking heads trying to be heard. Leonard came to the Clippers in part to play for Rivers, if the Clippers want to keep their best player — and they do — then they don’t dump the coach he likes.