For the second consecutive year, the Los Angeles Clippers are not in the NBA Finals.
But it is less of a disappointment this time around.
Last year saw them blow a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round.
It was a monumental collapse by a team that had been title favorites the entire year.
Ty Lue was promoted from the bench to take over head coaching duties.
And Luke Kennard was traded for to bring in more shooting and playmaking.
The offseason moves seemingly paid off as they advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
They came back from 2-0 deficits in the first two rounds.
This was not reminiscent of last year, though.
Here are three reasons why not making the Finals this year is not as bad as last year.
3. Kawhi Leonard Injured
The NBA is a star-driven league and it’s hard to win without your star.
Which is exactly what happened to the Clippers this year.
Los Angeles played it safe with Kawhi Leonard this year to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
He only appeared in 52 of the 72 games this season while averaging 24.8 points per game.
The rest paid off as his scoring ballooned 30.4 points per game during the playoffs.
However, he couldn’t escape the injury bug as he still suffered a sprained knee during Game 5 of their second-round series.
After the knee sprain, George stepped up his play and led the Clippers past the Utah Jazz to a conference finals appearance.
But George was not enough against the Suns.
He missed his co-star and his elite two-way game.
The Clippers were fully healthy last year against the Nuggets and still collapsed.
This year saw them put up a great fight and go six games without their superstar.
No shame in that.
2. Clippers Played Grueling Schedule
Due to the compressed schedule, teams got very little rest during these playoffs.
LA was an extreme example of that.
The Clippers played 19 games in 39 days.
Basically one day of rest on average in between games the entire playoffs.
After going down 2-0 to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, they went seven games.
And after going down 2-0 to the Jazz in the second round, they went six games.
This compared to the Suns who played 10 games their first two rounds – six against the Los Angeles Lakers and four against the Nuggets.
Not only were the Clippers missing their best player, but they had also played more games.
Because of this, George led the league in most minutes played during the playoffs.
Paul George has logged 735 minutes in the playoffs 😳
The next highest is Devin Booker with 605 minutes
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 29, 2021
Every team in the playoffs had to deal with limited rest, but the Clippers did themselves no favors by going down in the early rounds.
1. Suns The Team Of Destiny
Finally, the Suns just felt like the “team of destiny” this year.
From Paul and Monty Williams reuniting to the “Suns in 4” guy, Phoenix seemed to have that “it” factor you feel with championship teams.
Most disrespectful moment here was “Suns in 4” pic.twitter.com/piYbub2nQa
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) June 12, 2021
If both teams were at full strength this series may have turned out differently.
But injuries and absences are something all playoff teams have to deal with.
Phoenix was even missing CP3 for the first two games against the Clippers.
It was just next man up for the Suns as they won both games with Booker going for a 40-point triple-double in Game 1 and Cam Payne dropping 29 in Game 2.
Cam Payne tonight:
GAME OF HIS LIFE. 🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/XuHdKaOKJt
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 23, 2021
Missing their superstar and playing a grueling schedule through the first two rounds were two big setbacks for the Clippers.
Nothing wrong with falling to the Suns in six games.NEXT: Why Clippers Should Not Move On From Kawhi Leonard