After bringing in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers were immediately given the title of Championship contenders this season. For a team with so much talent, depth, and fight, it'd be flat-out delusional to call them something else.
But nobody said the road to glory would be an easy one, and the Clips are finding out first hand just how unpredictable things can become in the postseason.
Even after struggling to contain Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, L.A. entered round two with an enormous amount of certainty and confidence. And after blowing a 3-1 lead to set up a Game 7, much of that confidence has wavered now.
With their season and reputation on the line tonight, this may be the biggest moment in the franchise's shallow history. After preparing all season for a matchup against their L.A. rival, there's a good chance they might not even get there.
"There is tremendous pressure on the LA Clippers organization tonight, especially with the Lakers rested and waiting for the conference finals, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said. "Everything the Clippers organization has done over the last couple of years is to go through the Lakers to get to the NBA Finals.
The Lakers signed LeBron James in free agency, the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard. They trade for Anthony Davis, the Clippers go and get Paul George. They both competed for Marcus Morris in a trade with New York, the Clippers get him and the Lakers sign Markeiff Morris as a free agent.
Another element was I think there was a sense around the league and in L.A. was that in the bubble environment, there might be a little bit of an advantage for the Clippers against the Lakers because they know even in a seven-game series in Staples Center, even the Clipper home games, sometimes they feel neutral, sometime they feel like a Lakers home game.
And, right now, the Clippers are trying to fight against the free fall of not even getting into these Finals. They face a Denver team that feels like, in a Game 7, they've got nothing to lose."
Needless to say, there'd be major fallout if L.A. loses tonight.
After all they've done to get to this point, getting eliminated now, against an inferior Denver team, would raise some pretty serious questions about the capability of the roster.
They need to come up big tonight.