All good things must come to an end.
Kevin Durant scored 50 points and the Golden State Warriors routed the Los Angeles Clippers, 129-110, in Game 6 at Staples Center to close out the first-round playoff series 4-2.
Thus ends the Cinderella season for the Clippers. After the final horn sounded, signaling the end of the game—and the series overall—the Clippers walked back to their locker room to a standing ovation with their heads held high.
"The people who come to games go to work all day. And they love to see players who play like they work," said Clippers' head coach Doc Rivers about why the fans love this team. "I thought what the city saw in this team, what I saw in this team was a hard-hat team that came to work every day. And it doesn't matter if you're blue-collar or white-collar, people appreciate workers. It's not a credit to me; it's a credit to them. Like they showed up and decided to act that way. And I think fans really appreciated it. I know I did."
Less than 48 hours after shocking the Warriors at Oracle Arena, the Clippers faced the flip side of that euphoria on Friday, as they watched their season come to a screeching halt on their own home court.
The scrappy Clippers put up a valiant fight, but never were quite able to muster the same magic as they did on both ends of the floor in Game 5.
However, one of the best offensive displays in NBA playoff history didn't help either.
Durant started the game scorching hot, scoring 38 points in the first half, tied for the second most in a half in a playoff game in NBA history. Only another Warrior, Sleepy Floyd, has more, when he scored 39 points in the second half against the Los Angles Lakers in 1987.
"That was one of the great performances I've ever seen in my life," said Warriors' head coach Steve Kerr about Durant. "And I've seen some good ones. I've been around some decent players. So he just carried us these last couple of games of the series. He's the ultimate weapon because there's no defense for Kevin. No matter what anybody does, he can get a good shot. And he knew we needed him badly. And he just took over the game in the first half and set a great tone."
Durant finished with six three-pointers, and his 50 points were a playoff career-high. Draymond Green had his best game of the series, finishing with a triple-double on 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists.
"I felt great," said Durant of his historic performance. "It was a fun game, for sure."
Klay Thompson, who said before the game, "Let's go out and win by 30," finished with nine points and Steph Curry had 24.
"We just thrive in those situations," said Curry about how the Warriors play on the road, including six consecutive wins away from home dating back to last season. "We understand we have the talent and the experience and the composure to play on the road and at the end of the day, that is the atmosphere we live for."
In a surprise move, the Warriors started point guard Shaun Livingston at forward for the first time in the series, but the move didn't seem to make much of a difference, as he only scored two points in 17 minutes.
"We wanted to open up the floor a little bit and get the pace in our favor," said Kerr of his decision to start Livingtson over Andrew Bogut. "They made their move with JaMychal Green a couple games ago. This was our counter just to match them and to get our pace up. And I thought even though we were down 10 early I loved the pace and I loved the way the game was going and I felt good about it."
Clippers' forward Danilo Gallinari picked up where left off in Game 5, scoring 29 in Game 6.
"He was even better in Game 6," said Rivers. "He knows where he can score from."
The Clippers needed more from the reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams. After scoring 33 points in Game 5, Williams was held to just eight points in Game 6.
"I struggled at home this series and I played well on the road and that's just how it mapped out," said a disappointed Williams who shot 3-for-21 in the elimination game. "It was unfortunate that I couldn't give our fan base the performances that I was given on the road. Tonight was especially tough because it was a deciding game. I wish I would have played better. But I'll go to sleep tonight happy with the shots that I took and missed."
"Lou's been carrying us all year," said Williams teammate Patrick Beverly who finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Lou."
Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another good game with 22 points and Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell each had 10.
The Clippers led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, but by the end of the first frame the Warriors had a 35-31 lead, and never looked back.
"The Clippers punches us in the mouth and woke us up," said Warriors' forward Kevon Looney. "They showed us it's not a cakewalk. Every game is going to be hard. You have to focus every night."
Golden State went up by as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter before removing their starters for the final few minutes of the game.
"I look up and it's 25 [points], and I wanted to make sure they got the proper notice from the fans, and they did.," said Rivers about when he finally decided to pull his starters after the Warriors pulled theirs. "But when you come to the realization it's over, it's over."
The game marked the last appearance for longtime announcer Ralph Lawler who has been the Clippers play-by-play man since 1978 when the team was in San Diego.
"He deserves a street, a statue or something," said Rivers about Lawler. "He put in real time here. He really did. And I only had him for my six years -- really seven, I guess, is the one year I played here. But he was amazing. And he really is the voice of us."
After missing out on the postseason last year, the 2018-2019 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Clippers. Strapped with expiring contracts and a bounty of young players, L.A. had their sights set on the summer of 2019 when they would have the ability to lure multiple superstar free agents to Tinseltown.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, the Clippers walked the tightrope of winning and rebuilding simultaneously. They took advantage of the dysfunction going on down the hall with the Lakers, and with other teams around the league to seize the eighth and final playoff spot in a loaded Western Conference.
Pegged as the largest underdogs in NBA postseason history, the Clippers completed the greatest comeback in playoff history in Game 2, and shocked the world by surviving an elimination game at Oracle in Game 5.
"I don't think anyone believed that we can make the playoffs," said Rivers.
"Let's be honest, you didn't think we were going to be here, definitely not going 4-2. What we did was prove you guys wrong and we are happy with that," added Beverly. "I think if we did anything, I think we proved to you guys that we're not just a regular team. I think we proved to everybody in this room we weren't slouches."
"For me, we weren't just happy to be here," said Williams. "We weren't just happy to be in the playoffs and let's get 4-0. We came into the series really thinking we could put some pressure on these guys and give them a run for their money to upstage these guys."
"And we did," said Beverly matter of factly.
After turning heads across the NBA the next question for the Clippers will be what does the next step in their rebuild look like?
Current players Patrick Beverly, Wilson Chandler, Garrett Temple, and JaMychal Green are all free agents and likely won't be back with the team next season.
So who will replace them? The Clippers have their sights set on the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, but whomever joins the Clippers this summer will ultimately decide if the team continues to rebuild or becomes a bona fide title contender next season.
The Warriors advance to the second round where they will meet the Houston Rockets in a rematch of the 2018 Western Conference Finals.
The Clippers season comes to an end.