Clippers collapse: 3 future Hall of Famers not enough to advance to 2nd round of playoffs

Here we go again.

The Los Angeles Clippers were eliminated from playoff contention after losing to the Dallas Mavericks 114-101 in Game 6 Friday night at the American Airlines Center.

This season was supposed to be different. With four future Hall of Famers who grew up in Los Angeles, this could have been a beautiful Hollywood story. However, not every movie has a happy ending. This is real life and instead of getting ready for the second round of the playoffs, their off-season began sooner than expected in what was another failed year in the 213 era.

Paul George, James Harden, Norman Powell, Ivica Zubac and Terance Mann all finished in double figures. However, the Clippers could not execute a proper defensive strategy against Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irvine.

The Mavs moved on to the second round and will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. 

Amir Coffey #7 of the LA Clippers dives for the loose ball against Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

As the oldest team in the NBA, the notion of the Clippers winning the title was always contingent upon health.


Without Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers still had three other future Hall of Famers they should have been able to rely on in George, Harden, and Russell Westbrook. 

Now, that championship window is even tighter and it's unclear if the four All-Stars will return next season. 

After Game 5's embarrassing loss in their own home, George kept the calm and confident demeanor he's known for. 

"We’ve been here before, going into Dallas down 3-2, so it’s gotta be a win and the only mentality we have is try to get a win in Dallas," George said. 

He continued to say at this stage of his career, he doesn't feel any pressure. 

"I think the beauty of it is the older I’ve gotten, the less pressure it’s been, honestly. I think when it comes down to it, you work your tail off all summer, you train for these moments," he said. "You just get out there and give it all you have and live with the results. But as far as pressure, not anymore. I don’t feel that pressure anymore. I’m not there to prove nothing to anybody, but what I want to do is just go and show up for my teammates." 

Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers drives the ball against Derrick Jones Jr. #55 of the Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The Clippers were the last team standing that represents a diminishing era. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry were all knocked out of playoff contention. Now, the new era has arrived with emerging superstars such as Anthony Edwards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Paolo Banchero, Trae Young and Luka Dončić at the forefront. 

The Lakers season ended on Monday and playoff basketball is officially over in LA.


Game 1: Clippers 109, Mavericks 97

Game 2: Mavericks 96, Clippers 93

Game 3: Mavericks 101, Clippers 90

Game 4: Clippers 116, Mavericks 111

Game 5: Mavericks 123, Clippers 93

Game 6: Mavericks 114, Clippers 101


Since Kawhi Leonard and Paul George signed with the Clippers in July 2019, here’s a brief overview of how each season has ended in the 213 era. 

2020: The Pandemic Year

The Clippers were on a roll. They had the star power of a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Patrick Beverley's heart, and Montrezl Harrell's passion. Kobe Bryant, the NBA legend many Clippers grew up idolizing, passed away. Nearly two months later, the coronavirus pandemic temporarily halted the season, and the playoffs were played in the "NBA Bubble" in Orlando, Florida. The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals. A short time later, Doc Rivers was dismissed. 

2021: The Clippers Prevail and Make History 

The Clippers finished the season as the fourth seed in the West and faced the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. It was a seven-game battle and the Clippers came out on top and faced the Utah Jazz in the semifinals. Kawhi Leonard’s season had a heartbreaking end after colliding with Joe Ingles in Game 4. The injury ended up being a torn ACL.

Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers hugs Terance Mann #14 of the Los Angeles Clippers after he scored a basket against Utah Jazz during the first half in Game Six of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Staples Center on June (Getty Images)

Still, the Clippers utilized the "Next Man(n) Up Mentality" and it was Terance Mann who had the night of his life. His phenomenal 39-point game, which included 7 three-pointers, catapulted the Clippers to their first Western Conference Finals in franchise history. 

Paul George was sensational and answered the call in the West Finals. However, they ran out of gas and their season ended after a 27-point loss against Phoenix. 

2022: The Comeback Clips

Kawhi Leonard missed the entire 2021-22 season and Paul George was in and out of the lineup. In total, George played 31 games and dealt with injuries to his elbow, knee and hamstring. 

Without Leonard for the entire season and George for the majority of the season, the squad became the "Comeback Clips," and played with so much heart. One of those comebacks came when they overcame a 35-point deficit against the Washington Wizards.

RELATED: Historic comeback: LA Clippers erase 35-point deficit against Wizards

The Clippers went 42-40, ended the season as the eighth seed and would have to fight for playoff contention in the play-in tournament. 

George was back and led the Clippers with 34 points. Unfortunately, they lost the first play-in game against former Clipper, Patrick Beverley, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ahead of the second play-in game against New Orleans, George tested positive for COVID-19 and could not compete. Without their two stars, the Clippers failed to advance to the playoffs after losing 105-101 against the Pelicans. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Clippers' season ends after losing to Pelicans in play-in tournament

2023: Heartbreak Strikes Again 

What can go wrong, went wrong. 

Coming back from an ACL injury, Kawhi Leonard load-managed and played in 52 games for the 2022-23 season and Paul George played in 56. The two played in 38 games together. 

In late March 2023, just weeks ahead of the playoffs, George suffered a devastating injury in a play against Oklahoma City’s Lu Dort. The injury kept him sidelined during what ended up being a brief playoff run. 

As the fifth seed, they avoided the play-in and faced Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in the opening round of the playoffs. Leonard was spectacular in Games 1 and 2 and fans were stunned when it was announced he would miss Game 3 with a right knee sprain.

The Clippers were eliminated after 5 games and Leonard was later diagnosed with a torn meniscus.  

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: LA Clippers eliminated from playoffs after being scorched by Suns' Devin Booker

What's next?

Steve Ballmer and the Clippers front office have some big decisions to make ahead of the Intuit Dome opening this fall. 


In January, Leonard signed a $153 million contract extension. Meanwhile, George has yet to reach an agreement with the Clippers, with reports of interest from the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic.