Paul George accepts the Los Angeles Clippers failed to live up to lofty expectations but insists the season never felt like a "championship-or-bust" scenario.
The Clippers were among the favourites to become NBA champions after bringing in superstars George and Kawhi Leonard but their wait for a maiden Conference Finals appearance continued after a disappointing evening in Orlando on Tuesday.
“We’ve been very optimistic about us being together and building something going down the road.” pic.twitter.com/YYncxLDUqU— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 16, 2020
George had just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting and Leonard put up only 14 as the Denver Nuggets ran out 104-89 winners in a Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals, becoming the first team to recover from consecutive 3-1 series deficits in the same postseason.
While the defeat hurts for George now, he remains convinced the team will continue to grow together.
"It was obvious pressure to live up to the title expectations. But as a player, I mean, you want that. It's the first time I've been in that situation where we're expected to win," George said.
"But it is what it is. It's no cop out. The fact of the matter is, we didn't live up to that expectation.
"But I think internally, we've always felt, this is not a championship-or-bust year for us. We can only get better the longer we stay together and the more we're around each other.
"The more chemistry as a group, the better. I think that's really the tale of the tape of this season. We just didn't have enough time together."
George is keen not to see any knee-jerk reactions, responding when asked what roster changes he would like to see: "None. None. It's our first year together.
"You can't even say we want to change our roster. We like what we've got. I mean, we've been saying it all year. It's just about chemistry, being together.
"The more we can be together, the better we'll be. It's year one. We've got a lot to reflect on. A lot to look at going forward and to get better with."
George and Leonard, a title winner with the Toronto Raptors last season, fell short this year but the former has enjoyed playing alongside his new team-mate.
"I mean, it was great. Great first season with Kawhi. You know, still learning, figuring each other out," he said.
"But I thought we had a great year playing off each other. We can only improve off that. But I mean, it's pressure you want. It's pressure you want. You want that pressure.
"It's the first time I've been on a team and not be considered an underdog. So it was different, but you want that pressure as a competitor, as a guy that wants to compete. You want that pressure.
"We didn't make it to where we wanted to get to. Tip our hats off to Denver. They played great, and again, all we've got to do is look forward to the next one."
Leonard added: "We were right there. There's no excuses. We should have finished it off. Like I said, the last three games pretty much mirrored each other."