Clippers have unprecedented mix of sustained regular-season success, playoff failure
There have been 58 six-season streaks, many overlapping, of a teams winning more than 60% of its games each year.
Most of the six-season sets have produced multiple championships, and almost three-quarters saw at least one title. Three-quarters of the six-season sets also saw multiple Finals appearances. Nearly four-fifths featured at least three appearances in the conference finals (or, prior to that, the division finals). Fifty-five included multiple conference/division finals, and two more had one.
And then there are the Clippers.
In the last six years, the Clippers have gone 40-26 (61%), 56-26 (68%), 57-25 (70%), 56-26 (68%), 53-29 (65%) and 51-31 (62%). Championships: 0. Finals: 0. Conference finals: 0.
The latest letdown came with a home Game 7 loss to the Jazz yesterday.
Like several other years, the Clippers had a seemingly legitimate excuse. Blake Griffin was injured. Last year, both Griffin and Chris Paull got hurt in a first-round loss to the Trail Blazers. In 2015, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer got hot on 3-pointers as L.A. blew a closeout Game 6 to the Rockets. The Clippers didn’t have a better record than the teams that beat them in 2012 (50-16 Spurs), 2013 (56-26 Grizzlies) and 2014 (59-23 Thunder).
It was also easier to reach a conference/division finals in earlier eras. There were fewer teams and fewer playoff rounds.
But don’t let the Clippers completely off the hook. Why did they so lifelessly blow Games 5 and 7 after going up 3-1 in 2015? They had the same record as Memphis and home-court advantage in 2013. The Clippers never even lost to the team that reached the Finals, and with the Jazz set to face the Warriors, that doesn’t project to change this year.
Perhaps we’re unfairly criticizing the Clippers for winning in the regular season. If they had lost a little more from late October to mid April, they would have avoided this particularly infamy.
However, this is also a team with Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Those stars (even if Jordan didn’t become one until during this run) deserve high expectations.
Fair or not – and I’d say fair – this feels like a team that has significantly underwhelmed.
And the feeling matters. It will hover over the Clippers’ uncertain future, with Paul, Griffin and J.J. Redick hitting unrestricted free agency. They’ll each have plenty to evaluate, but the Clippers’ historically disappointing run is impossible to escape.
Here’s every stretch of a team winning more than 60% of its games each season, with the number of titles, Finals and conference/division finals during each streak: