Not even a halftime performance by legendary hip-hop artist Too Short could help the Los Angeles Clippers stave off elimination again.
Entering their Game 6 matchup with the Phoenix Suns at home inside Staples Center, the resilient Clippers were undefeated this postseason when facing elimination. Each and every time their backs were against the wall and their championship aspirations were written off, the resilient Clippers would bear down and defy the odds.
That all ended on Wednesday night.
Facing elimination for the second straight game, Paul George was unable to replicate his 41-point performance in Game 5, and the Clippers lost to the Suns, 130-103 in Game 6, ending their season.
Former Clippers' point guard Chris Paul had his best game of the series, scoring 41 points and eight assists for the Suns. Paul missed the first two games of the Western Conference Finals after testing positive for COVID-19.
For Paul, who once lost a series with the Clippers against the Houston Rockets when they were ahead 3-1, Wednesday's victory was an exorcising of demons that have haunted him throughout his 16-year career. Paul will play in his first ever NBA Finals on July 6 in Phoenix.
"He has persevered through a lot — injuries, playoff heartbreak,” said Suns' coach Monty Williams about Paul.
Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.
Paul got plenty of help from his teammates. Devin Booker finished with 22 points, Jae Crowder led the team in scoring in the first half with 19 and DeAndre Ayton had 16 points and 17 rebounds. But each and every time the Clippers went on a run and got within striking range, Paul would take over and silence the crowd.
"I was on a don't-lose mission," Paul said. "Just a lot of emotion. A lot of (things) going on."
"This is what we set out to get tonight, so we didn't want to go back to Phoenix without it," Booker said of the Western Conference Championship trophy.
Despite the loss, the greatest season in Clippers franchise history is still considered a success. They reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, and everyone counted them out after Kawhi Leonard went down with a knee injury in the second round.
Without Leonard, nobody thought the Clippers could come back and beat the Jazz, the team with the NBA's best record in the regular season. But they ran off four straight wins to steal the series despite the naysayers betting against them.
Against the Suns, they dropped the first two games of the series for the third consecutive time, but were able two win two of the next three, and were a last-second tip-in dunk by Ayton in Game 2 from sending this series to a Game 7. But in the end, they just ran out of gas.
"I thought we ran out of gas," said Clippers' head coach Ty Lue. "For that first half, we made a lot of mistakes mentally. That tells you guys are tired.”
So as the Clippers head into the offseason, watching the NBA Finals from the comforts of their home, they can hang their heads high and hope that Leonard will return to the team next season. Leonard can opt-out of his current contract with the Clippers and become a free agent at the end of the season.
Marcus Morris Sr. led the Clippers with a team-high 26 points and nine rebounds. George had 21 in the loss.
"The narrative of me not being a postseason player or all of that. I never understood it. But, you know, it's not much. I've been the same person," said George after the loss. "I've dealt with stuff, as we all do. It makes no different than the next man. It is what it is. I came up short again."
In addition to Leonard, the shorthanded Clippers were playing without starting center Ivicia Zubac who missed the last two games with an MCL sprain in his right knee.
"You are talking about one of the best players being out and we are inches from being to the next round," George said about Leonard. "It’s a lot of what-ifs, but we didn’t make it."
Two nights after George's fantastic performance in Game 5, it was another Paul's turn to flip the script. Chris Paul matched George's total with 41 points in Game 6, and was determined to get redemption against the team he spent six seasons with.
"I'm just so happy for all the people around me," Paul said on the court after the game, "and the Clippers are my family, too. These fans, Billy Crystal, that's my family. This is a team I have the utmost respect for, I'll always be a Clipper."