This picture may not be from game 7, but it perfectly encapsulates everything from the Clippers point of view. Just when I think I know something about sports, well... I don't. The Rockets may not have been dead in the water following game 4, but at the very least they were limbless and bleeding out awaiting their pending demise. As much as the Rockets role players deserve credit for stepping up for three straight games with their season on the line, the Clippers deserve twice the amount of criticism. As a fan it's hard to be heartbroken, because you most likely just spend the the better part of 3 hours accepting that this team was not ready to play basketball today. It's sure as shit disappointing though.
What we just watched was a continuation of game 6. Sans maybe 5 minutes of solid fundamental basketball, the Clippers came out like they were still trying to shoot away the demons of 3 days ago. Rushed shots. Awful turnovers. No patience. Just an utter lack of confidence and a plethora of nervous energy. Almost like they forgot what made them so successful over the entirety of an 82 game regular season, a 7 game dogfight with the Spurs, and the majority of this series against the Rockets. For all the unnecessary energy that the Clippers wasted playing sloppy, over anxious basketball on the offensive end, they lacked similar energy on the defensive end. James Harden constantly turned the corner on double teams. They constantly failed to get their hands in the face of shooters in a timely manner. They got beat to loose balls by the likes of Pablo Prigioni, of all people. Not to take away from what the Rockets accomplished, but the Clippers did just as good of a job beating themselves as James Harden did.
The supplemental pieces? No where to be found. While Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, and Trevor Ariza raised their games, JJ Redick was busy missing open jumpers and committing unforced turnovers. If Mattt Barnes didn't wack Harden towards the end of the game I may not have even realized he was there. Jamal Crawford, while making a couple big shots, was bad in nearly every other facet of the game. And it didn't end there. The player that has been the most reliable this postseason, Blake Griffin, was playing like a shell of himself. Missing shots he makes in his sleep, turning the ball over, showing no urgency on the defensive end. Chris Paul, while he will receive most of the blame, was probably the best of the bunch, and trust me when I say this, that wasn't hard to accomplish. You could make a case to dismiss the narrative that Doc Rovers is a great motivator based on this game alone. After two days rest, the same team that walked off the floor with their heads held low in Los Angeles is the same one that showed up, if you want to call it that, in Houston this afternoon. A team that looked like it had already been beat. A team that looked like it was over compensating. A team that was mentally weak from start to finish. This Clippers team wasn't without flaw, but they should have won this series, and that is something that is going to haunt them for a long, long time. We likely won't see wholesale changes in the offseason, but this team needs to be mentally rewired if they ever plan on getting to where they want to go.