I just got back from our viewing party at the Beach Club. We had a terrific turn out, especially given the short notice. I never really did a head count, but people kept trickling in throughout the first half, and for the second half we had a pretty good crowd - somewhere between 30 and 40 people. It's too bad the team wasn't able to pull out the win, but it was fun watching with everybody, nonetheless. Thanks to everyone for coming out.
During the broadcast of the Clippers-Heat game on Wednesday, Prime Ticket showed a graphic regarding team defense. I don't remember the precise numbers, but I know it focused on the field goal percentage allowed in games since December first, and that the Clippers (along with the Heat) were among the league leaders. Now, usually I'm not particularly surprised by the stats they share on the TV (particularly since some of them seem to originate with me), but that one caught me by surprise. Obviously I know that the Clippers have been playing well since December 1, the day the beat the Spurs, the day Baron Davis returned to the lineup as well. But I would not have thought to attribute the good run to great field goal defense. Improved? Sure. League leading? Not so much.
Bear in mind of course that the stat could be very misleading as well. I haven't done the math to determine how indicative it is, but a great overall field goal percentage is meaningless if you're giving up a lot of three pointers and/or a lot of free throws.
Regardless of how well the Clippers had been playing defense, they sure didn't do it tonight in Oakland. The Warriors are a streaky team, and when they get on a roll, they can be tough to stop. But from the opening tip of this one, Golden State just picked the Clippers apart. It started with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis coming off of screens in the first quarter. If the defender went under the screen, they shot and buried the open jumper, if he trailed it, the penetrated to the rim, if the screeners man helped, they got the roll. And once the Clippers were in a defensive rotation, the Warriors shooters spotted up behind the three point arc, where they were on fire all night.
The Warriors shot over 52% from the field for the night, and when you factor in the 14 threes they made (on only 26 attempts) their effective field goal percentage was 61%. Add in 22 out of 24 free throws, and you're looking at an offensive machine running at such a high level of efficiency that it's hard to overcome it. The 14 threes is tied for the most threes the Clippers have given up this year; they've done it twice before, and one of those was the last time they played in Oakland. That's correct, the Warriors averaged 14 threes per home game against the Clippers this season, and made 56% from deep. Wow.
Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin tried to counter. The Clippers as a team shot almost 53% themselves, and the G-Men each scored 28 points, on combined 23 for 38 shooting. But the Warriors had all of their weapons working tonight (even Vladimir Radmanovic for FSM's sake), while the Clippers were pretty dependent on Griffin and Gordon, and the Dubs just proved too much. Griffin, by the way, of course got his 25th straight double double and his 14th straight 20-10 game.
Sometimes you look at a game like this and you think - come on Steph and Monta. How can you go 0 for 11 from deep in the game in LA on Sunday, and then go 7 for 11 from deep in this one? If that were 3 for 11 and 4 for 11, if you just hit a normal number of your threes tonight, the Clippers probably win both games. But rather than be kind of bad in the first game and kind of good in the second, the Warriors just had to be completely terrible in the first and completely unconscious in the second.
The Clippers took the Warriors' best shot in the first quarter, and actually emerged with a lead, 39-35. But essentially the Warriors attack never let up for long, and when the Clippers went into any lulls, no matter how brief, they fell behind. The Clippers last lead of the night came at 49-47, with seven minutes remaining in the first half. The rest of the evening was a Warriors run, followed by a Clippers climb to reel them back. And whenever LA would tie the game, the Warriors would go on another run, usually ignited by a spate of threes.
An 11-0 over the two minutes from 5:15 to 3:15 in the second turned a 51-51 game into a 62-51 Dubs lead, and they led by 7 at halftime. The Clippers got back even at 77, but the lead stretched back to ten before the end of the third quarter, at 94-84. A run to open the fourth quarter had the game tied again at 96-96 - but a three pointer after an offensive rebound put them back on top. The Clippers caught them twice more, at 104 and 106, before a final 10-0 run ignited by back-to-back VladRad threes put them game on ice. Throughout the evening, when the Clippers needed a defensive stop, they couldn't get it. They tied the game four times in the second half - but they never led after halftime.
It's not a terrible loss. The Warriors are a good team (an outstanding offensive team, really) and they're particularly tough at home. The truth is, while we're unrealistically dreaming of the eighth seed in the playoffs, it may be Golden State who has the real shot - while the Clippers have played the most home games in the NBA so far, the Warriors have played the fewest, so in terms of games remaining, they will be at the Roaracle a lot the rest of the way. It's certainly a big let down after the massive high of Wednesday night. The real challenge for the Clippers now will be to try to bounce back for the Lakers on Sunday.