USA TODAY Sports
Thus far in the season, the Warriors seemed to have figured out the Clippers. In the past two meetings, they played with much more intensity, completely obliterating the Clippers on the glass (averaging 50.5 rebounds to the Clippers' 35.5), and unsurprisingly winning both games. Tonight, the Clippers needed to make a statement; they needed to show that they weren't going to be out-hustled, and they did just that.
As a former Bay Area resident and a frequent viewer of Warriors games, I am quite familiar with this team. The Warriors' stars, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and David Lee weren't quite in sync last year, but this year they've really found their niche. David Lee works in the post with surprising efficiency--the guy can make almost any awkward shot you can think of--and he's given plenty of space by the threat of the ridiculous three-point shooting of Curry and Thompson, owners of two of the most beautiful shots I've ever seen. Tonight, these stars were taken way out of their comfort zones, and while they did miss some wide-open shots, I saw this as a direct result of the Clippers playing excellent defense.
DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin exerted their will on David Lee on every rebound, holding the only 20-point, 10-rebound player in the league to 10 points and 5 boards on 3 of 10 shooting. Our bigs (and our smalls) were really hustling, as the team out-rebounded the Warriors 41-30 for the game, which was a nice change from the previous two meetings (interesting note: no player had more than 8 boards, but eight players had 3 boards or more). Stephen Curry was being dogged by Chris Paul, and then Eric Bledsoe, for most of the night, and as a result shot only 1-5 from downtown. Thompson shot better, making 3 of 7 treys, but the Warriors' backcourt combined for only 24 points, 7 assists, 1 rebound, and 3 turnovers. Yup, that's worse than Chris Paul's individual line of 27 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 0 turnovers. The Warriors' stars just had a terrible game, and they couldn't be saved by their answer to Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. With only 8 and 9 points respectively, they weren't digging the Warriors out of the hole they dug.
The game was really decided in the first quarter, where the Clippers built a 23-point lead as the Warriors couldn't buy a bucket and the Clippers couldn't miss. That's not to say the Clippers didn't play solid defense, but the Warriors shot a ridiculously bad 18.2% from the field in that first quarter. Still, early leads evaporate all the time, and after the Clippers built that first quarter lead, they kept it up with a combination of ridiculously stingy defense and extremely efficient offense. The Clippers forced 16 turnovers and held the 3rd best three-point shooting team to only 25% from the arc, all while shooting 52.5% and turning it over only 7 times (3 of those were during garbage time in the fourth quarter). Most of the damage was done by Blake, who scored 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting.
Now, when the Clippers took that huge lead into the second quarter, the "new" second unit of Bledsoe-Green-Barnes-Odom-
The third period was the Chris Paul Show. If Chris felt like last night's fourth quarter near-collapse was his fault, he was adamant about making up for it tonight. In the quarter, he scored 16 points on 6 of 7 from the field (3 of 4 from downtown). Interestingly, the Warriors actually out-shot the Clippers 58.3% to 53.6% but the Clippers won the quarter 36-23 thanks to 7 forced turnovers (and none of their own) and three offensive rebounds (and none allowed), resulting in a ton of extra shot attempts. The fourth quarter was basically practice time for the "new" second unit--and they'll need it if Crawford isn't back soon. Bledsoe seemed to find his confidence again, scoring 17 points on only 13 shots. Barnes was once again a jack-of-all-trades, with 11 points, 8 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block.
The Clippers seemed to be back in sync. They were the team from the first 3 quarters against the Lakers, and the team that won 17 games in a row. They were communicating on defense again, switching on backdoor screens and hedging/doubling the ball handler at seemingly all the right times. Everyone was hustling, with a total team effort on the glass, and the Clippers played about as well as they've played all season (at least until the latter half of the fourth). They earned a very solid victory against a strong division rival, despite missing Jamal Crawford, along with Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill. If the Clips want to win the Division Title for the first time in franchise history, a statement game like this was absolutely necessary.
For the Golden State perspective, visit Golden State of Mind.
|Final - 1.5.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Golden State Warriors||12||31||23||23||89|
|Los Angeles Clippers||35||32||36||12||115|