1 - Why did the Spurs lose the series?
Michael Erler: In short, not enough guys played well. Tony Parker was terrible. Injured or not, he was TERRIBLE. Manu Ginobili was average, at best, but Pop decided he can only play 18 minutes, and Ginobili seemed to agree that's all he had left in him. Danny Green was good in Game 3 and sensational in Game 7 but either sub-par or flat out bad in the other games. Boris Diaw had his moments on offense but was obliterated by Blake Griffin all series. Tiago Splitter was decent in the final game but soft and uncoordinated for the rest. Kawhi Leonard started brilliantly, but got worse as the series went on and he came up small in games 6 and 7. He never put his stamp on the series defensively, didn't get those steals and momentum-changing pick-sixes. Even Patty Mills cooled down after a hot start. Tim Duncan was the one constant, but his teammates let him down. Also, this was not Pop's best series. I was constantly confounded by his lineups and in-game strategy.
Bruno Passos: Aside from Chris Paul? The Spurs' inability to capitalize on certain situations. From shooting themselves on the foot at the free-throw line to not taking advantage when the Clippers rolled out lineups without Paul and/or Griffin, San Antonio failed to ever put their foot on its opponent's throat. The good teams make you pay for that.
Chris Itz: They didn't play as well as they could have and drew a very good team in the first round. Unfortunately, Tony and Tiago's health are always a concern for the team and some nagging maladies kept them from playing at the level we would have liked to see them play at.
Jesus Gomez: Injuries. It's hard to remember now but Tiago Splitter was killing it before re-injuring his calf. He was excelling on offense, which kept units with him in it afloat on that end. The defense was still good but he was not himself on that end in the playoffs. When you add to that Parker's struggles it's not surprising that the Spurs' starting lineup struggled so much to put points on the board.
J.R. Wilco: Besides Game 3, it was a series full of just-one-of-those-games for the Spurs. Go read Bill Simmons' play-by-play diary of the last twelve minutes and thirty seconds of Game 7, and know that it wasn't just the end of the series clincher that was like that. The whole series was full of head-scratching moments and oddball plays. The Clippers played great and forced a lot of that, but some of it was just downright weird. That's what it takes to dethrone a champion like the Spurs: a really great, and really lucky team.
2 - Who was the team's MVP?
Erler: Duncan, no question. There isn't even a close second.
Passos: Tim Duncan. He was a rock at both ends all series long. An early playoff exit won't make people forget the sight of him outrunning his man down the floor and burying jumpers over DeAndre Jordan.
Itz: Of course it's Tim Duncan, like it's been for 18 years. Series line: 18-11-3-1-1.5 on 59% shooting. He also committed just one turnover a game in 36 minutes a night. I couldn't be prouder of Big Fun.
Gomez: Duncan, for sure. And weirdly, that's probably a reason why the Spurs lost. The days of Timmy being obviously the better offensive player on the Spurs roster were supposed to be over.
Wilco: The only guy on the team cool enough to have Theodore as his middle name. If we were able to put Kawhi's name here, then the Spurs are probably still playing.
3 - Who was the team's LVP?
Erler: Parker, no question. There isn't even a close second.
Passos: Tony Parker. The offensive futility of the Spurs' starting backcourt killed them, but at least Danny Green made up for it on defense.
Itz: Yes, Tony Parker, but in terms of expectations, it's Whi for me. Love the kid, but he wasn't as good as the Spurs needed him to be after a 25-game tear that made him look like a top-5 player. My expectations for him were really high while I didn't expect Parker to be great. Leonard has to be the best player on the team for the Spurs to get back to the top. The good news is that he's got another decade ahead of him to keep trying.
Gomez: Parker. I think he just wasn't himself because of injury, especially on the defensive end. But I also feel like it will take him some time to get used to a new role. He would force shots for a while, almost knowing that he wasn't going to touch the ball for minutes afterwards.
Wilco: Ugh, I don't like doing calling players least. But with how limited Parker was (and how long Pop has been saying that the Spurs aren't themselves without him playing well) it's hard to go with anyone else.
4 - What's the moment that defined the series?
Erler: I think the moment that best sums it up was Pop trying to save the game down the stretch in Game 6 with Mills, Belinelli and Diaw on the floor but not Parker or Ginobili. He also left those guys in for a critical defensive possession down three points, and Paul iced the game, scoring easily on a short floater.
Passos: To add to my answer to question 1, I'll say the sequence to end the third quarter. Manu missed his last free throw on one end and Chris Paul, taking it the other way, buried a 40-foot shot at the buzzer. The Spurs had a chance to go into the fourth up three. Instead they began the final period down one.
Itz: Nothing stands out to me right now except for Duncan hitting those two late-game free throws to tie it up. It didn't define the series at all, but if he had missed one, this loss would have really hurt. I'm okay with the team losing, but it would have been hard for me to deal with the hero coming up short. That really might be the most vivid memory I take from this series. And maybe that CP3 banker.
Gomez: It might be just recency bias but that play in Game 7 in which Parker couldn't finish in transition to get the Spurs up five with two minutes left only to see Matt Barnes hit a triple to tie it in the next play. Missed opportunities on offense that cost on the other end? Sounds about right.
Wilco: I've got to go with Paul's incredible shot that dropped with a second left. It highlighted the fact that the Spurs had no answer for LA's star all series, even when he was hobbled by a strained hammy.
5 - Where does the loss rank in the all-time list of Spurs-related heartbreak?
Erler: In and of itself, not very high at all. It was still a first round series after all, even if it was between two top-five teams. When you root for a team with five Larry O'Briens, you can't be sweating first-round losses. It was heartbreaking in the sense of what it meant, since it was Ginobili's final game in all likelihood and Duncan could follow him out the door. If you were to tell me those guys are coming back next year, I won't give this series a second's thought 10 years from now. It was a sad way to lose, but the Spurs catalog of playoff heartbreakers is rather extensive, unfortunately.
Passos: 2006 to the Mavs and 2013 to the Heat are probably my top two, and I'm not sure this one nears those. No knockout loss is particularly easy to swallow, but last season's incredible run was always going to temper this season's result, be it good or bad. The added handicap of having two starters playing hurt also softened the sting a bit.
Itz: Nowhere near the top. The 2014 chip was so recent, so redeeming and so fulfilling that this one just doesn't hurt. It's 2015 -- Tim Duncan and the Spurs are still great and I think they give it another go. That doesn't make me heartbroken, it makes me grateful.
Gomez: It was surprisingly high on that list right as the game ended. Last season was amazing and the Clippers are a great team, so now I feel like it doesn't come close to some other sad moments. But after the late-season surge, I got my hopes up. Then the Pelicans game happened and Chris Paul -- who I might have mentioned in the past is not my favorite player -- hit that dagger. I'm at peace with it now but it hurt at the time.
Wilco: For me, it's pretty bad. But coming as it did after last year's trip to Basketball Paradise, it doesn't feel so bad. I don't think I'll be able to rank it until the glow of 2013-14 has fully faded. And who knows how long that'll take as it's almost a year ago and I'm still feeling the effects.