Chris Paul put up 35 points on the Memphis Grizzlies, but without some help,… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
I so wish I could watch Chris Paul continue to play basketball and show everyone what a mighty competitor he is.
But I fear the absolute worst.
One more Clippers collapse, and that appears to be a certainty come Friday, and the basketball season is over.
And you know what that means?
We have to start paying attention to the Dodgers and Angels.
Or worse. Icing.
The NBA playoffs were not about winning a championship, but getting us deep into June without having to watch Joe Blanton pitch or listening to Charley Steiner describe an underachieving team's performance.
Sure, it was the Clippers' chance to attract some fans now that the exit interviews are over, but why should we be surprised they blew such an opportunity?
They are still the Clippers, and they better hope Paul doesn't leave as a free agent, or they really will be still the Clippers.
What a shocking waste of what should be such a wonderful story. It's a good thing Clippers fans are so experienced in handling disappointment.
But name any great Laker and Paul gave that kind of performance in Game5. He was the Clippers' leading scorer and rebounder late in the game, playing with the kind of resolve that makes him so special.
When asked about the disappointment of the loss, Paul even took all of the blame. "It's on me," said Paul, who finished with 35 points. "I have to do a better job of getting everyone involved."
Too bad Paul's sense of responsibility wasn't contagious.
All that manly talk about being punked, and the Clippers rolled over dead in one of the franchise's biggest games.
Now maybe the Clippers didn't have a shot after Blake Griffin sprained an ankle in Monday's practice. There was serious thought given to not starting Griffin, who played as hard and as competitively as he could before sitting out the fourth quarter.
That meant for much of the game the Clippers did not have a power forward or starting center. DeAndre Jordan was healthy, but just a waste of space.
Jamal Crawford continued to struggle getting his shot, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups were once again missing in action and soon Coach Vinny Del Negro might follow.
What a wonderful season it promised to be, the Clippers beating these Grizzlies in the seventh game of the playoffs a year ago and beginning the regular season with yet another pulsating win over Memphis.
And then 17 wins in a row and talk about the Clippers turning the corner. Who knew it was fool's gold?
They had every advantage on Memphis, winning a key game near the end of the season to gain the home-court edge, and then just tossed it away.
They had no answers for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and does anyone really think they have what it takes to rebound in Game 6 in Memphis on Friday?
OK, so Paul would be the exception. He has already done the unimaginable in making the Clippers relevant. And the way he played against Memphis, how can anyone not hold him in even higher regard?
But where's the help? Where's the refusal to give in? Check the archives.
I wrote the same thing about Jordan a year ago, but the Clippers were more fortunate. They had Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin, both guys tougher and playing with more energy than Jordan could muster.
"Do you miss them now?" I asked Del Negro before the game.
"Sure," said Del Negro.
As small as he is, Paul played so much bigger than Jordan, who just has to do more or the Clippers will never go much further.
"He's got to bring the energy, the intensity level," Del Negro said before the game, and next year the team's new coach probably will be saying the same thing.
Remember when everyone was going crazy over Lob City? You take Griffin out of the game with an injury, old age doing the same to Butler and Billups and get nothing from Jordan, and it's Paul against the world.
Where's the heart from everyone else? The Clippers won the first two games of this series and it's been a Memphis mismatch ever since.
And a major letdown, and didn't we already have that with the Lakers, which brings us to the Dodgers and Angels.
Time for vacation.
In an effort to help Lakers fans who will have nothing to do for a while, I might suggest reading a book. Just think of me as Phil Jackson.
I would recommend "Between the Bylines: The Life, Love and Loss of Los Angeles' Most Colorful Sports Journalist," by Doug Krikorian, available through amazon.com.
It's touching and funny, which suggests maybe Krikorian had help from a ghost writer, and it's also a good reminder that the media treated Wilt Chamberlain at times like Dwight Howard.
Or, as Krikorian began his column one night after a poor performance by the Lakers center, "Wilt Chamberlain was the tallest spectator at the Forum last night."
I can see now why he's writing books.