If my allegiance to LA Lakers took a sudden (albeit, temporary) shift to LA Clippers in dire hopes of seeing a Los Angeles team play in the 2006 NBA Finals (a face-off against Miami Heat if it were up to me, anyway), it was further challenged by Phoenix Suns' 127-107 Game 7 win last night.

Ah, the night's supposed festive mood broke into silent despair (save for the long and heavy sighs).

Why did Clippers lose? The odds favored them early on, qualifying for the playoffs and winning the postseason series with swift resolve.

Well, ultimately, it boiled down to experience. At least that's what I think. Phoenix had Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson in the early '90s and the franchise now has Steve Nash who just earned another MVP award. But what of the LA Clippers? The franchise was on a dry spell for years (30, to be precise) that challenged that of Atlanta Hawks' until this season. Honestly, I hardly knew anybody from the team or how it played to win (e.g. Suns have Nash and his brilliant fast-break offense while Phil Jackson has his triangle offense, to name a few) until Kobe Bryant failed to lead LA Lakers to the Playoffs. There were the occasional buzz of a possible Lakers-Clippers Playoffs but as history bitterly unfolded, neither teams qualified .

The question in everyone's mind (at least those pining for a Clippers win) is why Sam Cassel, the team's clutch player, clammed-up in such a crucial game as Game 7 firing more missed shots than his 11-point performance? Which was a bit odd given how he was the only one with a Game 7 experience — a fact that was overemphasized by the NBA commentators one too many. Perhaps he was still reeling from warming the Clippers bench in the last quarter of Game 4 and watching in horror how Phoenix pulled a surprising upset. If that was so, then it is Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy to blame for the Playoffs blunder. It was he who benched second pointman Elton Brand in Game 1 when the guy was on fire, shooting hoops like a seasoned pro, and sending the wrong and inexperienced player (what's his name, again?) to wrap up and lose a 3-point advantage Game 5.

Argh! What a complete waste of opportunity for the LA Clippers. And to think Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas were at injury bay! OK, so Phoenix Suns need respect. I'm now humbled… until next season, at least.

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