The worm has turned in L.A.
Make no mistake about it.
The only thing worse than the Los Angeles Lakers being knocked out of the NBA playoffs in the first round is the Los Angeles Clippers moving onto the second round.
On Sunday at Staples Center, the Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 to win their best-of-seven, first-round series.
It was improbable.
It was impressive.
It was franchise-turning.
The Clippers were left for dead after dropping the first two games of the series at home. In fact, only four teams in NBA history had overcome such a hurdle.
L.A. fans and national media both thought they would wind up laughable losers sooner than later and clowned the Clippers. Many wanted to discredit the NBA resumes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Without question, it was a case of premature evacuation of the Clippers’ bandwagon.
Listen for the spin, the couching, and backpedaling on sport-debate TV and sports-talk radio. The doubters and naysayers will simply have no choice but to recognize.
The Clippers are the L.A. story nobody wants to read. Finally, fans in this city do not honestly have a choice as the Clippers are the only show in town.
The Clippers aren’t only alive and well, but are in position to thrive after slaying that monster from Dallas. Yes, Luka Dončić — who averaged 35.7 points — tried to beat the Clippers all by himself. It’s the second year in a row the Clips ousted Luka.
If the Clippers get past the Utah Jazz in the second round and get to the Western Conference Finals – something this franchise has never done in its history — and then to the NBA Finals, you will be able to point back to Game 3 in Dallas.
That’s when Leonard FINALLY changed the sad-sack Clippers. They had already lost the first two games of the series at home. And then they were trailing 30-11.
They could have folded, yelled “Uncle” or “No Mas.” The season looked lost and a sweep seems inevitable.
Instead, Leonard started the game 8-for-8 from the field.
The Clippers won that game. In Game 4, Leonard started the game 6-for-6 from the field en route to tying the series.
And then the epic 45-point barrage by Leonard in Game 6 on the road that forced Sunday’s Game 7.
Lakers’ fans on social media openly rooted for the Clippers to turn into the Clippers and lose yet another winner-take-all game. Coming in, the franchise was 3-5 in Game 7s.
Remember, Leonard snubbed LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers had money for him and a spot that would have created the ultimate Big 3.
It would have been easy street for Leonard, born in suburban L.A., to join the Lakers and all their trophies and winning history. Instead, the Clippers — who have never won a thing — won over Leonard and won the day when he picked them and not the Lakers.
It made Lakers fans sick.
They laughed loud and hard when Leonard and Paul George choked down a 3-1 lead last season in the second round to the Denver Nuggets.
If you remember, Lakers fans erupted as if they’d won the title after the Clippers collapsed. The Lakers wanted no part of Leonard and the Clips in The Bubble in Orlando. The matchup favored the Clippers all day.
Leonard has now become the thorn in their side they were fearful of.
Worse, they have to hear NBA America talk about the Clippers, while the Lakers are home, trying to figure out their future with a fossil Hall of Famer and a fragile budding Hall of Famer.
For sure, Leonard has stolen the headlines and the spotlight.
And for the record, in the last five postseasons coming into this one, five teams had clawed back from a 0-2 hole and win a playoff series.
The biggest, and most recent, example came in 2019. The Toronto Raptors were down after losing the first two games to the Milwaukee Bucks. But they won the next four en route to winning the title that season.
And the mastermind, architect of that turnaround was none other than Leonard. He has the blueprint.
This is why Lakers fans lusted for Leonard. Now more than ever, they loathe him.