|Clippers fail to duplicate last year's playoff appearance|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 19 April 2007 13:43|
The team went on summer vacation Thursday after being eliminated on the last night of the regular season when Golden State defeated Portland to grab the Western Conference's eighth and final berth. The Warriors' victory came before the Clippers lost to New Orleans, 86-83.
``I definitely don't want the season to be over now,'' Clippers star Elton Brand said. ``It really hurts, it really burns.''
Especially because the Clippers were expected to contend for the Pacific Division title and make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
``It's the middle of April and you're finished,'' guard Cuttino Mobley said. ``I don't feel good and I won't feel good for a long time.''
After losing three straight earlier this month, the Clippers felt they needed to win their final five games to make the playoffs. As it turned out, they were right.
The Clippers rallied from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Lakers, and followed that up with a decisive victory over Portland in their fourth game in five nights. But they came out flat against Sacramento last Sunday, and ultimately, that did them in.
Brand, disgusted with the effort, criticized some teammates afterward.
``We didn't come out with the energy we needed to win that game,'' he said Wednesday. ``We learned a big lesson on attention to detail and how hard we have to play every single game.''
The Clippers trailed by 23 points in the first half against the visiting Kings - the Pacific Division's worst team - and by 24 early in the third quarter before losing 105-100.
The Clippers finished with a 40-42 record a year after forcing Phoenix to a seventh game in the conference semifinals.
``Sacramento really shot us in the foot,'' forward Corey Maggette said. ``We felt we could have been in the playoffs regardless of all the crazy stuff that went on all season.''
Some of that ``crazy stuff'' involved injuries to guards Shaun Livingston and Sam Cassell.
Livingston was lost for the season on Feb. 26, when he tore three ligaments in his left knee. He underwent surgery last month and could be out for up to a year.
He made a surprise appearance at Wednesday's season finale and addressed fans before the game.
``There's been some trying times,'' he said. ``Without the fans and all the support, it would be a lot harder to get through this.''
Cassell missed 21 games throughout the season, nursing his 37-year-old body through a series of injuries.
``I think I let my ballclub down,'' he said. ``It really broke our season.''
Center Zeljko Rebraca was sidelined all season with a back injury before being waived two weeks ago.
``Hopefully next year we won't have any injuries and we can be a contender in the playoffs again,'' Maggette said. ``Without key guys, it hurt us. We never could get the chemistry we needed. We just really need to stay healthy. We really do have the pieces.''
Brand, who played for the U.S. national team last summer, and center Chris Kaman weren't as productive as last year.
``I could have done more, always,'' Brand said.
Kaman signed a five-year contract extension worth over $50 million early in the season.
Coach Mike Dunleavy told his players to forget about the draft, free agency and trades, and focus on individual improvement during the summer.
``The last 18 games of the season we played really hard and competitively against all of the top teams,'' Dunleavy said. ``We defended well and guarded the ball better, and had we played that way for most of the season we wouldn't be in the situation that we are in now.''