Clippers Clinch 2021 NBA Playoff Spot with Lakers' Loss to Raptors

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2021

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers' Paul George, right, celebrates with teammate Kawhi Leonard (2) after scoring against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of an NBA basketball game, in Los Angeles. Leonard and George are healthy at the same time to start the 2020-21 season, and that’s given the Clippers a renewed sense of optimism. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers are headed to the playoffs once again.

L.A. clinched its spot in the postseason Sunday as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Toronto Raptors, 121-114.


Postseason bound 💪 The Clippers have clinched their spot in the playoffs! https://t.co/dYu4boXTW7

This is quite the stretch for the once downtrodden Clippers, who have now made the playoffs in nine of the last 10 seasons. It is a notable turnaround after they made the playoffs just seven times in the first 41 years of their franchise's history.

The issue has been advancing.

In fact, the Clippers have never made it past the second round of the postseason. Last year was particularly brutal when they had championship expectations with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and a deep core and blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round.

The collapse led to plenty of changes heading into the 2020-21 campaign.

L.A. parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers, promoted Tyronn Lue from assistant to head coach and didn't bring back 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell. They signed veteran Serge Ibaka to take his place and then traded for veteran Rajon Rondo during the season prior to March's deadline.

Considering Ibaka was part of the 2019 champion Toronto Raptors and Rondo was part of the 2020 champion Los Angeles Lakers, there is now plenty of on-court leadership around Leonard and George as the Clippers look to take the next step in the postseason.

It won't be easy in a deep Western Conference that features title contenders in the Lakers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets, as well as dangerous challengers in the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks.

Still, making the playoffs was just the first step for the Clippers in what is a championship-or-bust season.

They have one of the best players in the league in Leonard, a two-way force in George and plenty of notable playmakers around them to go with the motivation that should be in place after last season's collapse.

The pressure is now on.