LOS ANGELES – There was no calamitous final scene or epic fourth-quarter meltdowns, no freak occurrence or debilitating in-game injury.
The Los Angeles Clippers watched the clock tick down in their 104-91 Game 7 loss to the Utah Jazz – and consequently, their season.
They exchanged the usual post-series pleasantries and hugs with their conquerors, then walked through the northeast tunnel at Staples Center, heads down.
The Clippers dropped their final game of the 2016-17 season not because they couldn’t surmount mental hurdles, but because they were outmatched tactically.
Chris Paul, who entered the game with a 50-40-90 (field goal percentage/3-point percentage/free throw percentage) on 27.3 points and 10 assists per game, found himself bottled up by a Jazz defense that played up on the Clippers' bread-and-butter high pick-and-rolls.
“I think they did a pretty good job of being up in the ball screens,” Paul said. “They were shrinking the court on us.”
For two weeks, the Jazz keyed in on many of the Clippers' favorite actions, showing them multiple looks. Though Jamal Crawford managed to sizzle in isolation, Utah continued to meet JJ Redick as he curled off screens trying to move to his left.
Up front, Derrick Favors punished the Clippers from midrange and on the glass while Rudy Gobert was absent, as he was in Games 1 through 3 and most of Game 7 with foul trouble.
In the end, the Clippers simply couldn’t overcome Utah’s corps of strong, lanky wings in the series. Paul’s heroics aside, the Clippers, down Blake Griffin, never established a rhythm – not that Utah was any great shakes.
This was a slog of a seven-game series won by the team with a greater tolerance for muck and a greater knack for resourcefulness.
For the sixth consecutive season since Paul arrived in Los Angeles to join Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers won greater than 60 percent of their regular-season games, yet failed to reach a conference finals.
Redick called the end of their season on Sunday a “recurring disappointment.” Told the Clippers had been down this road before, Paul interjected, “Yeah, too many times.” Clippers coach Doc Rivers grumbled that the Clippers' obituary had been written repeatedly over the past three months.
As Paul Pierce shoveled the remaining belongings of a Hall of Fame 19-year career into white garbage bags, and equipment assistants cleared what was left behind in players' lockers, that Clippers postmortem can now be performed in earnest.
To a man, the Clippers and their head coach declined to address their collective future in postgame media availabilities. The prospect of detonating the roster has hung over the Clippers with each postseason failure in recent years, yet with Paul, Griffin and Redick each an unrestricted free agent this summer, a hypothetical question is now an imminent one.