It's a fact of life that teams are at a disadvantage playing in the second game of a back-to-back, especially on the road. So in that sense perhaps it's not a surprise that the Los Angeles Clippers came up empty against the Warriors in Oakland tonight. But given what happened when these two teams met on Christmas night, with the Warriors winning a close, contentious game in which Blake Griffin was ejected after drawing two technical fouls that each came after he was the recipient of off the ball flagrant fouls, I really expected the Clippers to have more fight in them.
The Clippers were outscored in the paint 66-22. They were outrebounded 53-34. DeAndre Jordan grabbed 20 of those boards by himself, which means that the rest of the team combined for just 14 rebounds. The first 15 minutes of the game, as the Warriors took a 19 point lead, looked like a Golden State layup line. Time and again sloppy on ball defense allowed dribble penetration which got the Clippers into sloppy rotations, with the result being uncontested layups and dunks.
When the Clippers made a late first half push, and trimmed that 19 point lead down to eight at the halftime, L.A. had the momentum, and all they needed to do was avoid the same bad start in the second half that they had in the first half. Well, it was the same at least. It was much, much worse. The Clippers made just one field goal in the entire third quarter,shooting 1-15. When you're trying to come back from eight down on the road, a 1-15 quarter is less than helpful. The Warriors won the quarter 26-11 and that was more or less that.
Griffin finished with 27 points on 11-21 shooting, but those points masked something about his evening -- he was not really very good. His jump shot was great, as he made 7-12 from the perimeter. But those numbers tell you two disturbing things: first, that he took 12 jump shots, which is a lot, and second that he was 4-9 in the paint. Andrew Bogut and David Lee leaned on him all game, and even though the Clippers were able to get Bogut into foul trouble and Griffin shot 10 free throws, he just didn't have much success in the post. Golden State's strategy on him is clear -- push and push and push and hope you don't get called, and then if he beats you give a hard foul. The jump shot is a welcome addition, but tonight it was the only thing working, and that's not a long term formula for success; at least not for another season or two.
Other than Jordan's 20 boards and Griffin's jumpers (which as we've already shown were a mixed blessing) I'm hard-pressed to find many positives in this game. The defense was abysmal, and unlike some other Warriors losses where it felt like Stephen Curry was unstoppable no matter what happened, tonight was a different story. Golden State's first unit is interesting in that they have playmakers galore -- shooting guard Klay Thompson is probably the weakest passer of the starting five, but that's only because Lee and Bogut are such good passing bigs. The Clippers were just a step slow, probably because they played last night, and against so many playmakers, a step slow is going to leave players open. The Warriors did a great job of making the extra pass and getting layups even on plays when they already had a good shot.
The excuse is built-in; this was the Clippers ninth game in nine cities in 14 days, in addition to having played Wednesday night in L.A. And they looked like it. I was hopeful that they could push through the fatigue and get up for such a big game, but it was a big game for the Warriors too, so they had as much or more motivation and a whole lot more energy.
There's nothing really for the Clippers to do other than start preparing for their game against Utah on Saturday.