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Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue isn’t dwelling on the past.
The Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 in Game 7 on Sunday to close out their first-round playoff series. To some extent, it was impossible not to contrast Los Angeles’ fight back from an 0-2 hole to the team’s collapse last year when it threw away a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the second round.
Lue, on the other hand, wasn’t looking to reflect on how the 2020 postseason influenced his team’s performance.
“That s–t’s over,” he told reporters.
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“They were mentally locked in all day… We wanted this moment.”
Ty Lue on the total team-effort Game 7 win over the Mavericks😤#ClipperNation | @LAClippers pic.twitter.com/iyIjwubL5y
As the regular season approached, Patrick Beverley said that “guys are pissed off, which is good.” Paul George also said in January he “absolutely” turned the criticism directed toward him and his teammates into a source of motivation. Kawhi Leonard echoed that sentiment.
“It does leave a bad taste in your mouth blowing a 3-1 lead,” he told reporters. “But I love it. These are things that build the player. It’s the things that I like, the challenge. The road of going to a championship is hard. I love the process.”
It would be impossible for a team not to be carrying a chip on its shoulder after what unfolded for the Clippers in the NBA bubble.
Fixating too much on past failures can backfire, though.
The Toronto Raptors were a prime example. By the time the Cleveland Cavaliers swept them in the 2018 playoffs, LeBron James seemed to have mentally defeated them. Toronto lost Game 4 by 35 points.
At some point, a team has to look forward, and the Clippers appear to be doing just that.
It was easy to hit the panic button when Los Angeles dropped the first two games to Dallas. Then the Clippers responded like you’d expect a championship contender would. Leonard’s three-pointer inside the final two minutes of Game 6 was the one moment when the narrative may have changed the most.
Of course, all of the old talking points will come up again if the Clippers lay an egg against the Utah Jazz in the conference semifinals. The Jazz are no pushovers, but it’s difficult to envision L.A. having a more clear path to the NBA Finals for the foreseeable future.