Along with the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Clippers are frequently talked about as one of the “cursed” NBA teams. From being constantly overshadowed by their big brother (The Lakers), to horrible injuries and circumstances and calls never going in their favor, it looked as though the Clippers would never break through. Before this NBA season, the franchise had never been to an NBA Finals or Western Conference Finals. Since the team relocated to Los Angeles and became known as the Clippers, the furthest they had ever gone in the playoffs was Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals in 2015, and that was when Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan were on the team, destroying defenders as Lob City dunked on everyone.
Now, this has all changed.
In 2021, one year after the Denver Nuggets ripped out Clippers fans’ hearts by coming back from down 3-1 while their team spontaneously combusted in the NBA bubble, the Clippers have made history. The longest drought in NBA history for not making a Conference Finals or NBA Finals has been broken. Somehow, they did it without the best player on their team.
Of course, injuries are playing a large part in this year’s playoffs. Kawhi Leonard, easily the best player on this team who was recently named to the All-NBA 1st Team, injured his knee and didn’t play in Games Five and Six. Donovan Mitchell, the star of the Utah Jazz, missed Game One of this series due to an ankle injury, although when playing in some of the later games in the series, he looked like himself. Mike Conley, Utah’s starting point guard, injured his hamstring, and although when he played he may not have been at 100%, Jordan Clarkson, the 6th Man of the Year, rose to the occasion. Capping it off, Serge Ibaka, the backup center for the Clippers, recently had back surgery, and he did not play in a single game this series.
That meant that the Clippers winning would rest on how Paul George stacked up to the challenge. Ridiculed for hitting the side of the backboard on a shot in the NBA Bubble and not showing up in Game 7, George had a resurgence against the Jazz. In Game 5, the team’s first game without Leonard, George played wonderfully, dropping 37 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, and dishing five assists while looking like the MVP candidate he was in 2019. The Clippers played small ball this game, going with 6’8″ Nicholas Batum as their center. Reggie Jackson also chipped in with 22, and Marcus Morris, Sr, had 25. Conley did not play in this game, and the Clippers managed to take the game from the Jazz, 119-111, as they went up 3-2.
Game 6 saw the Clippers playing at home, as the Jazz maintained the best record in the Western Conference. George looked like himself again even without Leonard, as he finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Jackson’s performance played a huge role in this win, as he finished with 27 points and 10 assists. However, the big storyline of this game was Terrance Mann.
Picked up by the Clippers as the 48th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft from Florida State University, Mann only averaged 8.8 minutes per game in his first season. However, this year, with many more injuries, his playing time increased. As their starting shooting guard/small forward, Mann got to play 36 minutes in Game 6, and scored 39 points, which is incredible if you think about it. On average, Mann was scoring 1.083 points every minute, and if he had played all 48 minutes, he would have finished with around 52 points! Who would have thought after last year that Paul George and Terrance Mann would have led the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals?
My opinion on if the Clippers are still cursed:
I would love to think that the Clippers are no longer cursed in any way. While this Western Conference Finals appearance gets some monkeys off their back, I can’t simply believe that 50+ years of events not going their way will turn now that they are one of the four best teams left in the 2021 NBA playoffs. Injuries have always killed the Clippers (Blake Griffin, Bill Walton, Chris Paul… watch the video above), and while I love what George is doing, I think Leonard’s absence will show in the WCF … if Paul of the Phoenix Suns comes back from COVID-19 protocol restrictions.
However, if the Clippers can get to the NBA Finals despite the injuries, then I will certainly believe that the team has lifted the curse. They don’t have to win the Finals, as simply getting there would be a big enough achievement. However, if they do win the Finals… I simply don’t think anyone can make an argument that they are cursed.
Do you think the Clippers have broken their curse? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!