The Los Angeles Clippers' season is on the line tonight at 9 p.m. ET as they face off against the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series. We as fans and we in media tend to overreact to events unfolding in real-time, mostly because it's more fun than being reasonable, but it's also natural to immediately judge what our eyes just saw and speak on it accordingly.
But it is no overreaction to believe that it would be an abject disaster for the Clippers to lose this game. The organization thinks so, as Adrian Wojnarowski reported on today's SportsCenter that there is "tremendous pressure" within the franchise to win this game and not leave the bubble early.
Saying there's pressure on the Clippers to win a Game 7 is not exactly the peak of NBA inside reporting. But, as Woj points out, the Clippers' decisions over the last two years have all been made with beating the Los Angeles Lakers in mind. Lakers sign LeBron James? Clippers sign Kawhi Leonard. Lakers trade for Anthony Davis? Clippers trade for Paul George. Hell, the Lakers signed Markieff Morris after the Clippers traded for Marcus Morris. The parallels are obvious to anybody.
To do all that, and then to lose to the Nuggets before even getting to the Conference Finals, would be the worst-case scenario. Especially after they blew consecutive double-digit leads in Games 5 and 6 when they had a chance to close out the series. Those are the kinds of series that can completely destroy the carefully-organized plans of any franchise.
It's hard to imagine the Clippers having a better chance than this year, too. They would have been at an inherent disadvantage were these playoffs taking place outside the bubble because Lakers fans outnumber Clippers fans by a good amount even for Clippers home games. Players like Morris and Reggie Jackson will be gone next year once their deals are up. Los Angeles doesn't have any first-round picks to work with over the next, like, five years. Leonard and George are good enough to keep the Clippers in contention for however long they choose to stay, but they'll never have a supporting cast better than this as the cap crunches in future seasons. Not to mention Leonard is fresher for this playoff run than he ever has been and probably ever will be after getting four months of load management before ramping it up to playoff basketball.
The Clippers gave up everything to pair Leonard and George together. A second-round playoff exit, even in this very strange year, would be damaging to the franchise in ways it wouldn't to pretty much any other team in the league. It doesn't mean they'll blow it up, or all hope is lost for a chip if Denver emerges victorious tonight. But when a team goes all-in and loses the bet, everything can change very quickly.