- Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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The reeling LA Clippers have blown two big leads in a row and have stunningly squandered their 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series to the Denver Nuggets.
But Paul George says it is the Clippers who are “still in the driver seat” entering a do-or-die Game 7, despite collapsing down the stretch of their past two losses.
“It’s positive,” George said of the Clippers’ mood after a 111-98 loss to the Nuggets in Game 6 on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. “This group’s staying together. We still in the driver seat. It’s not a panic mode. We have a Game 7. I like our odds with our group. We put ourselves in this position and it’s on us to get ourselves out of it.”
The Clippers led 68-49 with 10:10 left in the third quarter only to watch Denver outscore them 60-25 over the next 20 minutes. The Clippers’ 19-point blown lead matches the largest lead given up with a chance to clinch a conference finals appearance since 1997. The Clippers lost a 19-point cushion in Game 6 of their 2015 series against the Houston Rockets.
Still, George believes the Clippers will find a way to fix their season-long issue of losing big leads after blowing a 16-point lead in Game 5 to Denver.
“We know what we are up against,” George said. “We have the utmost respect for them as opponents, but I like our chances. I like our odds. I like what we have. Again, it’s on us to finish this out.”
“We’ve just got to go back to the film and see what we are doing,” George added. “I think that’s the only question that needs to be answered is why aren’t we matching them.”
The Nuggets, though, will be the team with all the momentum and a ton of Game 7 experience entering Tuesday night. They will be playing in their fourth consecutive Game 7 dating back to last postseason. And they were just the 12th team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit when they beat the Utah Jazz in the first round.
The Clippers franchise, meanwhile, has not been able to get past the second-round wall, falling to 0-7 in opportunities to clinch a conference finals berth. Only baseball’s Oakland Athletics, who lost nine straight, have blown more opportunities to advance to the round before a championship series among NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
In his postgame session with reporters, Kawhi Leonard was asked, “Did you guys just choke today?” The Clippers shot 4-for-20 in the third quarter.
“Just went cold,” replied Leonard, who had 25 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. “We went cold in that third quarter. That’s it. We kept getting to the paint, passing the ball, got a little stagnant and just couldn’t make shots.”
The Clippers will have to lean on their leader, Leonard, who hit the buzzer-beating game winner to help Toronto beat Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of the East semis last postseason.
“Just got to leave it all out on the floor and make sure we are paying attention to detail and executing and communicating on the defensive end,” Leonard said of his message to his team entering Game 7. “And that’s all we can do, go out there and play hard and just make sure we know the game plan.”
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