Clippers let chances slip away, 109-105

Stephen Dunn

The Clippers had plenty of chances to take control against the Warriors, but they failed to take advantage and dropped game 1 of their series, 109-105.

The Los Angeles Clippers lost game one of their playoff series to the Golden State Warriors, 109-105, and that's all I have to say about that.

Oh, what? You want more? The thing is, I'm just not sure there's anything to be taken away from this game other than that the Warriors now have the advantage. The game was a mess. Blake Griffin played just 19 minutes because of foul trouble before fouling out in the final minute. Chris Paul committed six turnovers and missed a pair of crucial free throws in the final 10 seconds. As for the Warriors, I went into this series of the opinion that they would win some games -- provided Stephen Curry played well. But Curry, of the insane true shooting against the Clippers all his career, scored 14 points on 16 shots, yet Golden State came away with the win. Down is up and up is down.

Sadly it does seem that the officials were so determined not to allow the game to get out of control that they more or less ruined it in the other direction. It is more than a little bizarre that they just kept blowing the whistle, knowing full well the impact they were having. Andre Iguodala's fifth foul wasn't a foul -- but at least in his case, it did kind of look like a foul at full speed. On the other hand, Griffin's fourth foul was really soft -- and his fifth was little more than a touch, as was his sixth. The NBA isn't likely to issue an admission of error this time, but that makes twice now that the officiating crew has taken Griffin out of a Warriors game this season.

When the refs finally did put the whistles away, that too worked against the Clippers. With the Clippers down to, Draymond Green reached in and fouled Paul on a double team -- Paul lost the ball out of bounds and the official signaled Clippers ball. This is a fairly common practice among NBA refs -- even if they know it's a foul, they prefer not to put a player on the line in that situation for a soft foul, so the compromise is just a do over, let the offensive team keep the ball. The problem is that in the age of replay review, possession is reviewable but fouls are not. Which essentially invalidates this long standing compromise call in the final two minutes of the game. (In case you think I'm on a soap box specifically because of the impact of this call in this game, you can see my post on this subject from two seasons ago, not to mention one I wrote during a Lakers playoff game. This call was a peeve of mine long before today.)

In the end, neither team played well, and in the final two minutes, both teams were pretty terrible. Harrison Barnes' huge three pointer with 1:42 left was the last basket scored by either team. (Talk about the play of the game, that three followed his own block of a Paul fast break layup that would have given the Clippers a three point lead.)

In the final 130 seconds, the Clippers were 0-4 from the field, 3-6 from the line, and committed three turnovers. The Warriors weren't much better after Barnes' three -- 0-2 from the field, two turnovers and 4-8 from the line. In many ways, niether team deserved to win this game.

The Warriors did have a great run in the third quarter however, when they were 14-18 from the field and scored 35 points. It was the best sustained stretch for either team in the game, and ultimately it was the difference. The Clippers were so committed to keeping Curry from hurting them that they refused to leave him on the pick and roll -- but the Warriors ball movement was far better than the LA rotations, and the second pass out of the trap invariably resulted in a wide open shot of the most deadly variety -- a whole bunch of layups and dunks and open threes.

The Clippers defense suddenly woke up and began to shut down the Warriors in the fourth, when they got 11 stops in a sequence of 14 possessions, but they were only able to manage a one point lead at that point, which was erased by the Barnes triple.

Perhaps most frustrating of all were the missed opportunities for the Clippers. Throughout the game they missed easy shots, starting right off the bat when Matt Barnes missed an early dunk. But the ones that hurt the most came late. After the Clippers took the lead, the Collison got a strip on Curry and the Clippers had a three on one break -- and Barnes got the chase down block. Then with the game still tied, Paul got a steal and kicked the ball ahead to a streaking Collison -- who took his eye off the ball and lost it out of bounds. In a tight game where they were having trouble scoring, those were four easy points that just went begging.

Paul committing turnovers, Griffin limited to 19 minutes, missed opportunities? Did I cover everything? Oh wait, I forgot about the bench. Jamal Crawford, Collison and Danny Granger combined to make just 5-26 from the field, and one of those was a half court heave at the end of the first quarter by Jamal. Honestly, when you consider the complete absence of bench production AND the literal absence of Griffin for sixty percent of the game, it's amazing that the Clippers had any chance at all in this game.

And now it's time for the obligatory "There's a lot of basketball left" comment. There's a lot of basketball left. If the Clippers hope to advance in the playoffs, they'll have to win on the road in places like Oklahoma City and San Antonio -- and now they'll have to win in Oakland. They certainly can do that -- but they'll certainly have to play better than they did in this game. The only trouble is, the Warriors can play a lot better also.

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