Kawhi Leonard is a cyborg.
Cyborgs aren’t supposed to have emotions.
They are just machines, processing information, crunching data, and applying the results.
A cyborg will take into consideration efficacy, and efficiency, but that’s about it. Emotions are not an input. Style will not get in the way of results.
When Jamal Murray went up for a dunk with 1:47 left in the game, his Denver Nuggets down six, Leonard’s CPU took in all the data, processed the predicament he was in, and instantly commanded the Clippers star’s body to prevent that basket.
This is what it did:
Leonard didn’t attempt a middle-finger block because he wanted to show off. Cyborgs don’t show off. It was simply the best way to deny a key basket, during a must-win game three.
No yabang. Just what needed to be done.
I dislike the Clippers, you see.
Not because I am a Lakers fan who believes LA should be a one-team town, but because there was an arrogance to the way they were running their club.
During the 2019 offseason, the Clippers pulled off a tremendous coup, getting Kawhi Leonard to sign with them. Not only that, they managed to stealthily swipe away Paul George from the OKC Thunder to pair with Leonard. That gave them a trio of lockdown defenders, along with Patrick Beverley. Rounding out their ranks were a pair of Sixth Man of the Year Candidates in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell (who later won the 2020 edition), up-and-comers in Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet, and mid-season additions Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson.
On paper, they are a stacked squad, double-loaded at every position. However, they didn’t quite look like, well, a team, more of a collection of talent. And it reflected on the court: due to injury issues, both real, and load-related, they never really developed a chemistry together. The 2019-2020 Clippers seem less like a cohesive unit, and more like a fantasy team come to life.
In spite of that, the Clippers excelled. Yes, head coach Doc Rivers rarely got to trot out the units he wanted, but it didn’t really matter. When Leonard’s super-computer was firing, he toyed with opposing defenses, while wrecking offenses on the other end. When the Clippers smothered foes and then converted their turnovers into easy buckets, they looked nigh-unstoppable, title favorites even.
It just didn’t happen very often.
But not only did the Clippers not look cohesive, they had a tendency to look, well, bored. The regular season didn’t really mean too much to them, which is why they were able to go deep into load management protocols. The seeding games didn’t really mean too much to them either, as they were more concerned about getting guys healthy for the postseason. And now that the Playoffs are here?
Sometimes you get a game one against Denver.
Sometimes you get a game two against Denver.
Sometimes they hustled. Sometimes they didn’t.
Arrogant, you see.
And yet, not really.
The Clippers, it seems, are just content to do things on their own terms.
They take their cues from their robotic leader, crib off the printout results of his super-computer. When it says to route all power to the weapons systems, they flip the switch.
NBA history tells us that when a series is tied 1-1, the winner of game three goes on to triumph about 74% of the time. The Clippers knew this, having been in a 1-1 situation in round one against the Dallas Mavericks.
Guess which side took game three and the series.
The Denver Nuggets in this game had a 12-point lead, 57-45, with 3:34 left in the first half. After looking exhausted in game one, they looked rejuvenated in game two, and seemed poised to steal game three.
It didn’t happen.
The Clippers closed out the first half on a 12-2 run, to trail by just two, 59-57.
Denver rebuilt a double-digit lead in the third, but it just as quickly was erased, with LA taking the lead for the first time since the start of the second. The Nuggets entered the fourth ahead, 88-84, and got up by seven, 97-90, 8:29 to go, but it was all Clippers after that. After a 101-all deadlock, LAC made it 113-107 by the time this was in the books, thanks in part to, well, a middle-finger block.
I suppose when you have Kawhi Leonard, you become confident that your team can turn it on at the drop of a hat.
So far, the Clippers have managed to answer all the tests thrown their way, whether you like them or not.
They may not be sending opposing sides home via four-game sweeps, but when push comes to shove, there they are. Smothering, oppressive, sometimes straight up humiliating (because who the heck blocks a shot with their middle finger, anyway?).
These Clippers are just the output spat out by processors looking for the best way to another Larry O’Brien trophy. That a team, more fantasy squad than cohesive unit, can somehow seem on the verge of an NBA championship, is a middle finger to the rest of the field. But it’s not born of arrogance. It was just the best way to get the job done.