clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Clippers lost Game 7 to the Jazz and may never be the same again

New, comments

With looming free agency for the Clippers’ biggest names, the Lob City era may have ended on Sunday.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday when they lost at home to the Utah Jazz, 104-91, in Game 7. The crushing defeat marks yet another chapter in the book of disappointing Clippers playoff finishes in the Lob City era.

Utah won in part due to its ability to limit J.J. Redick all game. He scored his only points at the 3:28 mark in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles lost despite only 13 minutes from Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who played five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.

The Clippers and Jazz were tied after one quarter at 24 apiece, but Utah pulled away and never looked back. The Jazz outscored Los Angeles, 55-39, in the second and third quarters. The Clippers attempted a late-game rally, but could not come up with timely stops and scores necessary to erase the double-digit deficit.

The Clippers looked strong in the series against a tough Jazz opponent. But the positive postseason outlook was crushed when Blake Griffin suffered a season-ending toe injury in Game 3.

Now, Los Angeles finds itself in a particularly murky situation moving forward.

That’s because three of the Clippers’ biggest names become free agents this summer.

No player is more important to the Los Angeles franchise right now than Chris Paul, who can decline the player option on his contract to opt out and test free agency. If he opts in, Paul will make more than $24 million next season. He could also opt out to sign a more lucrative, long-term deal in Los Angeles.

But he’s not the only free agent. Griffin is in a similar scenario with a player option and the ability to test the waters over the summer. Griffin has missed consecutive playoffs with devastating injuries and has had his fair share of setbacks over the course of his career. But he is also 28 years old and in the prime of his playing career.

Redick is also a free agent at the end of this season, and at 32 years old, the prospect of winning a championship weighs heaviest at this point of his career.

Combined, it will cost Los Angeles more than $200 million to retain its core going forward.

That leaves a crossroads for the Clippers to traverse.

The core of Paul, Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan has been formidable but fruitless. The Clippers have failed to get past the second round of the playoffs and have been knocked out in the first round three times in six seasons.

Over the past two seasons, though, injuries robbed Los Angeles of its fair shake.

Last season, both Paul and Griffin went down with first-round injuries. After winning the first two games, the Clippers lost four straight. This time around, it was Griffin alone who went down with another injury.

Los Angeles still had a chance, but the Jazz are a tough team that executes on offense and poses issues with its size and versatility. The Clippers undoubtedly feel had Griffin been healthy, it would be them advancing to the second round for a dance with the Warriors and not the Jazz.

Whether they would have gotten out of the second round is a debate for another time.

The Clippers now face a question with the future of the franchise hanging in the balance. Do they bring Paul and Griffin back for another go-round with the same team, hoping injuries don’t derail a talented team once full of promise? Or do they blow it up, let Griffin, Paul and Redick walk and start from scratch again? Do they shell out the $200-plus million needed to remain relevant, or fall back to their status as the bottom dwellers on the West Coast?

And what do these questions mean for Doc Rivers’ future as president and head coach in Los Angeles?

Griffin and Paul hold the cards in their hands. They could each opt-in for the final seasons of their contracts, bringing the band back for one last go at getting over the hump. Or they could leave and find their next move.

Either way, Los Angeles is in a precarious situation headed into summer of 2017. And losing Game 7 at home in the first-round to the Jazz didn’t make the decision-making process any smoother.