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Timberwolves' Jamal Crawford still haunted by Clippers' playoff failures

Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) moves the ball against Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the first half in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Apr. 25, 2017. Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Jamal Crawford just played against his old team on Sunday, Dec. 2. Still, he said playing the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Wednesday night will be different.

The Timberwolves guard has made many returns to his former NBA homes. In 18 NBA seasons, he's played for seven different teams. Last season it was the Clippers.

"You always look forward to (returning) because you see a lot of familiar faces, people that you haven't seen in awhile, and even people in the arena that you saw every time you came in a certain way."

But this return will be different. Because when you think Jamal Crawford, you think of the Clippers. That's where he spent the most time in his career, five seasons in Los Angeles after four-plus in New York.

"I had team success, I had individual success and was there a while," Crawford said. "So, yeah, I think people would say associate me with the Clippers or the Knicks."

Los Angeles is where he won two of his three Sixth Man of the Year awards, and the Clippers appeared in the playoffs in each of his five seasons there.

"I just think he's one of those guys that, at least for the Clipper community, he was a bright light," Clippers coach Doc River said. "You want him to do well. He was a great Clipper for us; he did so many great things for us on and off the floor. And I think Jamal is a great ambassador for basketball."

Crawford always thought the Clippers had a team capable of making a long playoff run with the potential of a storybook ending.

"I always will believe that," he said. "I just feel like we had one of those teams. I felt like we had a special, special team. I think that's what I'll take away more than anything else."

There was plenty of talent on those teams, which included Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Crawford. But the Clippers never made it to the Western Conference finals, always falling short for one reason or another. Crawford still laments a conference semifinal loss to Houston in 2015, a series the Clippers at one point led 3-1.

They also led by 19 points in Game 6 late in the third quarter, only to be outscored 40-15 in the final frame.

"That one hurts the most," Crawford said. "You could do that 100 times, and 99 times it'll work in our favor. It was just not meant to be."

That much can be said about many of those Clippers' runs, as promising postseasons always seemed to go off the rails for one reason or another, whether it be costly turnovers or crippling injuries.

"You don't forget the losses," Crawford said. "You don't forget those times, those wars, those things you went through with the guys. You'll never forget those."

Yet, despite all the heartbreak, Crawford won't say those Clippers teams were "jinxed."

"Because some of the things that happened were self-inflicted, like we brought some of the things on ourselves, like Houston, certain situations," Crawford said. "Other stuff, sometimes you can't predict. I don't know, whether cursed or not or all that, we just didn't get it done."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.