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The Clippers’ Second-Round Elimination Is Not as Simple as It May Seem

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jamal Murray sat down in his Jesus Shuttlesworth shorts, with a paper cup in hand and the Los Angeles Clippers in his pocket. Murray did not eliminate the favored Clippers by himself, but it sure felt that way. The Nuggets star is not a freak athlete. But he is a 6-foot-4 true point guard who can make shots from anywhere on the floor—and, as we have discovered in these playoffs, at any moment of the season.

Murray scored 40 points on 26 shots in Game 7. Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 24 points on 38 shots. These are not advanced stats, but they are how-you-advance stats.

The Nuggets came back from down 3–1 for the second straight series to make the Western Conference finals. They won Game 7, 104–89. The Clippers lost in the second round again. People will say they Clippers are failures (let’s go with “disappointment”) or mercenaries (who isn’t?), but they can still represent Los Angeles by doing what Los Angeles residents do: Watch the Lakers in the playoffs.

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The difference in this series?

Murray: “A lot of times it’s about trust. Coach (Michael Malone) has given us a lot more trust to run the offense. As long as we play defense, we can do whatever we want on offense. It’s all about trust.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers: “We start missing shots and you can see us trusting less and less and less.”

Clippers guard Lou Williams: “A lot of the issues that we ran into, talent bailed us out. Chemistry didn’t.”

Murray: “It’s fun to silence everyone talking negative about us.”

Paul George: (Checks Damian Lillard’s Twitter feed, weeps.)

For Murray, this was not a hot night or a hot series; it is how he plays. Murray played at least as well in the epic seven-gamer against the Jazz in the first round. He is a star, a foundational player, the kind every team seeks. The Clippers put George, one of the great wing defenders in the league, on Murray, and he kept hitting shots. The Clippers then started doubling Murray off every ball screen, to force the ball out of his hands; it worked, in the sense that they got the ball out of his hands, but there is a risk to doing that. Other players were open, and the Nuggets took advantage.

The Clippers appeared to have the most talented team in the league, they were title favorites, and they lost in the second round. Also, they are the Clippers. Together, this makes them an easy punchline. George lost early again. Rivers lost in the second round again. All true. They will hear it. They have no choice.

But their failure is not as simple as people will make it out to be. Look, if there was one thing everybody could agree on with the Clippers, it’s that Leonard is a clutch superstar. This is the guy who led two franchises to championships, who won Finals MVP against LeBron James’s Heat and the dynasty Warriors. As Rivers said Monday: There is never a guarantee somebody will play well, but with Kawhi, you know the moment will not be too big for him.

Well, with his season on the line, Kawhi Leonard shot 6-for 22, scored 14 points and was minus-21—the worst mark of anybody on the floor.

Did Leonard become a choker now as soon as he put on Clippers gear? Of course not.

The Clippers were never right. They never peaked. Before the pandemic, there was not much urgency. After the pandemic, there was chaos. Williams left the bubble for a funeral, which became a story when he got caught getting chicken wings at a strip club. Paul George admitted the bubble was wearing him down mentally (he isn’t alone there) and it took him a while to play like the star he is.

“Our guys missed a lot of the bubble,” Rivers said “(Montrezl Harrell) missed 30 days, Lou 14, Pat (Beverley) 16. Some of that came back and haunted us.”

To understand how wild this series was—and, really, how wild the bubble playoffs are—consider this: Murray said when the Nuggets trailed the series 3–1, he still felt they had the better team. Rivers said when the Clippers led 3–1, he knew his team wasn’t right.

“I was never comfortable,” Rivers said. “I just wasn’t. I just knew, conditioning-wise we had guys that just couldn’t play minutes, and that’s hard. Two and three times a night, we start getting it going and guys had to come out. So no, I was never comfortable. I can tell you that up front.”

In Game 7, Rivers had to take guys out because they were tired. As he said, “That’s not typical for Game 7.” But they asked out. What could he do?

Yes, every team had to deal with the bubble, and the Nuggets lost guard Will Barton to an injured knee. But the Clippers only signed Leonard and traded for George last summer. They had no foundation.

We often overstate our ability to read athletes’ minds, but it’s easier in basketball than in most sports. You could see it in the second half of this game: The Clippers didn’t really believe in the way a team needs to believe to win a Game 7. Everything was a little off. JaMychal Green drove in for a monster dunk, the kind that usually brings a crowd to its feet. But there was no crowd. He missed. George fetched the long rebound but then he passed into the stands. Williams drove in for a layup. He looked like he was bracing for a taller player to fly in and block it. Nobody did. The shot bounced around the rim and away. Then Murray hit a three-pointer.

Beverley turned around when a fast break didn’t develop and passed to George, who fired up an open three-pointer that rimmed out.

They looked like they had installed their offense that morning. Some of that was probably just fatigue. Some was that they just didn’t have the time together that they needed. It is weird to say that the more experienced team won this series, but that was how it looked. Murray is only 23, but he has been training for this his whole life, and he has been playing with fellow star Nikola Jokic for four seasons. When they barely missed the playoffs at the end of the 2018 season, Leonard was a San Antonio Spur. George had completed his first season with Oklahoma City.

With more than a minute left, Nuggets president Tim Connelly left his seat to head toward his team’s locker room. “Tim!” somebody called from behind. It was Clippers president Lawrence Frank, stopping Connelly to congratulate him. It was a nice gesture. Frank put together a great roster. Connelly put together a great team.

Source: – Sports Illustrated

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Tonight’s lineup: Zeuch starts – Bluebird Banter

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It looks like there has been a change in starting pitcher for tonight. I thought Matt Shoemaker was to start, but now the Blue Jays are saying T.J. Zeuch gets the start.

I hope there isn’t a injury reason for the switch. Charlie Montoyo is to talk to the media soon so we’ll hear why the change was made.

Bo Bichette and Randal Grichuk both sit today. Joe Panik plays short and Jonathan Davis is in center.

Update:

No injury to Shoemaker:

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Lightning not discouraged after missing first chance to lift Stanley Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — The job’s not finished.

The core of this Tampa Bay Lightning team has been chasing the Stanley Cup for years, so what’s another two days between friends, right?

That’s not to discredit the Dallas Stars or pronounce this Final over. It’s merely a reflection of the Lighting’s attitude after having the trophy put back in its case with a 3-2 double-overtime loss on Saturday night.

“We’ve got a plan,” said head coach Jon Cooper. “It’s gotten us this far and we fully believe it’ll get us through the end.”

“They get the goal and we don’t, so it’s not a big deal,” added forward Anthony Cirelli.

From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.

The Lightning were on the verge of a very big deal after Mikhail Sergachev gave them a 2-1 lead before the third period was four minutes old. They nursed it into the second half of the period before Joe Pavelski found a loose puck at the edge of the crease and did what he’s been doing for years.

Still, Tampa was one shot away from a championship and threw everything it had at Anton Khudobin. Cirelli hit a post while Tyler Johnson put one off the knob of Khudobin’s stick.

It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see them pull out oxygen tanks on the Dallas bench during the first overtime period. This was the difficult end of a back-to-back and the Stars were taking on water while leaning heavily on their top-four defencemen — seeing Tampa out-attempt them 25-7 and outshoot them 7-2.

“I thought we played a good enough game to win,” said Lightning forward Ondrej Palat. “I thought in overtime we really tilted the ice, we had a lot of possession, a lot of chances, we just didn’t score on them.

“So yeah, they’re a good team, they battled back.”

The Stars gave it a push in the second overtime and won it on Corey Perry’s goal-mouth scramble at 9:23. A John Klingberg point shot ricocheted off two Tampa players and stopped at the edge of the crease before Perry slid it around Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“They’re a good team at getting pucks to the net,” said Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman. “It’s one of those things, you block a shot and it just lays behind you. We’ve got to be a little bit harder to help Vasy, but yeah, they made a nice play.

“They went hard to the net and they got a puck there and they put it in. That’s the end of it, we’ll look over it and get better for next game.”

They had an excellent chance to break the NHL bubble and finally get their hands on the Cup, but the tape will reveal that this was not Tampa at its best.

The Lightning appeared to be a step off for much of the night and didn’t create the kind of high-danger chances on Khudobin it had while building a 3-1 series lead. They also got just one first-period power play — Khudobin was the only reason they didn’t cash in there — so the goals were tougher to come by.

This was the sort of style Dallas needed to play with its season on the line.

Tampa will find some comfort from the fact it hasn’t dropped consecutive games yet in these playoffs and it lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final under similar circumstances before closing out the New York Islanders in the sixth.

With a little rest, and a refreshed attitude, they’ll look to repeat that script on Monday night.

“We’ve felt this feeling before,” said Cooper. “We have felt this sting and then we’ve rebounded. But the big thing is to get some rest here.

“Just in the end you could see — I don’t know, if that game went any longer, I don’t know if there would have been any goals scored.

“I think both teams were pretty tired.”

They’ve been at this for nine weeks now.

For many of the Lightning, this is the 15th playoff series they’ve gone through since 2015 and it’s the closest they’ve been to lifting the Stanley Cup. They managed to keep their minds in small places with the trophy inside Rogers Place on Saturday night, but they couldn’t quite seal the deal.

“I thought we kept it cool,” said Hedman.

The heat will get turned up quickly if they don’t get the next one.

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Kansas State rallies to stun No. 3 Oklahoma – TSN

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NORMAN, Okla. — Skylar Thompson passed for 334 yards and ran for three touchdowns, and Kansas State rallied from 21 points down to beat No. 3 Oklahoma 38-35 on Saturday.

Freshman Deuce Vaughn caught four passes for 129 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Wildcats, who were coming off a season-opening loss to Arkansas State. It was Kansas State’s first-ever road win against a top-three team in the AP poll.

Oklahoma freshman Spencer Rattler passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns, but he threw three interceptions.

Kansas State upset Oklahoma 48-41 in Manhattan, Kansas, last year.

Kansas State said earlier in the week it was struggling to have enough players available at all position groups to play the game because of COVID-19.

In the opening moments of the second quarter, Rattler threw into traffic and found Drake Stoops for a 32-yard touchdown. It was the first career touchdown for the son of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, and it gave the Sooners a 14-0 lead.

Thompson’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Chabastin Taylor in the second quarter cut Oklahoma’s lead to 14-7, but the Sooners answered with Marvin Mims’ 9-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half.

Rattler’s 53-yard pass to Stoops led to Seth McGowan’s 5-yard touchdown run and a 35-14 late in the third quarter.

Two short rushing touchdowns by Thompson got the Wildcats back in the game. Kansas State’s Nick Allen blocked Reeves Mundschau’s punt, and the Wildcats took over at the Oklahoma 38. Vaughn’s 38-yard touchdown run on the Wildcats’ second offensive play and the extra point tied it at 35 with 8:17 to play.

Kansas State’s Blake Lynch hit a 50-yard field goal with 4:32 remaining. Kansas State’s Jahron McPherson intercepted Rattler in the final minute to help close out the win.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kansas State: The Wildcats didn’t fold when they fell behind and the defense improved in the second half against Rattler.

Oklahoma: The defense fell apart much like it has many times in recent years.

UP NEXT

Kansas State: Hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.

Oklahoma: Travels to Iowa State on Saturday. The Cyclones beat the Sooners three years ago and nearly upset them last year before falling 42-41.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

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