All-Star guard Paul George said the Los Angeles Clippers remain positive even after another collapse against the Denver Nuggets, this time in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinals series.
The Clippers, tapped to be a championship contender ahead of the season, wasted a 19-point lead and lost, 111-98, in Game 6. They were outscored by the Nuggets, 64-35, in the second half of the game.
This is already the second time that the Clippers squandered an opportunity to eliminate the Nuggets. They were up by 15 points in Game 5, but lost, 111-105, as the Nuggets stayed alive.
Yet George insists there is no reason for the Clippers to panic.
"It's positive," he said of the mood in their locker room.
"This group's staying together. We (are) still in the driver seat. It's not a panic mode," said George, who scored 33 points in Game 6. "We have a Game 7. I like our odds with our group."
"We put ourselves in this position and it's on us to get ourselves out of it. It just comes down to what we do on Game 7."
The Clippers were ahead, 68-49, with 10 minutes left in the third quarter after a three-pointer by George. But they were outscored, 62-30, the rest of the way by the Nuggets, and had no answer for Denver big man Nikola Jokic.
Jokic put up 34 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. He and Gary Harris combined for 19 points in the fourth quarter -- as many points as the Clippers scored as a team.
When asked if they "choked," LA forward Kawhi Leonard said they "just went cold."
"We went cold in that third quarter. That's it. We kept getting to the paint, passing the ball, got a little stagnant and just couldn't make shots," he said.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers admitted that they took their foot off the pedal and "lost their pace." He warned his team in the middle of the third quarter that the Nuggets wouldn't fade away, and he was proven right by Denver.
"You know, didn't go away. So give them credit. Like they made every shot. They made all the right plays. We missed some shots," said Rivers.
"But I didn't like our shots. I didn't think -- in the first half, we touched the paint, and then the ball came out and we got shots. In the second half, we held the ball, and we put no pressure on the defense," he added.
Game 7 of the series is set for Wednesday morning, Manila time. George said the Clippers have to study the game film to figure out what changes they need to make so as to avoid a similar collapse in the deciding game.
Leonard, who had 25 points in the defeat, said the Clippers have to "leave it all on the floor."
"(We have to) make sure we are paying attention to detail and executing and communicating on the defensive end and that's all we can do, go out there and play hard and just make sure we know the game plan," he said.
But it will certainly be a difficult test for the Clippers, who are under tremendous pressure after an offseason that saw Leonard and George join the team. With two All-Stars -- including the reigning Finals MVP -- on their roster, the Clippers carried championship expectations into the season.
An exit in the semifinals of the Western Conference will be a massive disappointment, especially if the Clippers wind up blowing a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series
"I don't know how many playoff games but that's all we've played," said Rivers. "This is … a veteran team, as far as where they are from. But they are not a veteran team together."