On an emotional day, the Los Angeles Clippers battled to emotional win over a Golden State Warriors team that scrapped against them to the bitter end. The Clipppers had an 11 point lead after the first quarter and the frenzied STAPLES Center crowd that turned out to support their beloved team sensed a Game 2 style blowout. But it was not to be.
Blake Griffin, who has dominated the Warriors through most of the series, had one of his worst first halves of the season, making just one basket on a breakaway dunk. But despite Griffin's struggles the Clippers maintained a five point lead at halftime. The third quarter was more of the same, as only this time it was foul trouble that limited Griffin as he picked up his third and fourth in quick succession and sat the rest of the quarter.
But Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and especially DeAndre Jordan picked up the slack for the frustrated Griffin. Every time the Clippers needed a big basket it seems like either Paul or Crawford provided it. As for Jordan, all he did was put together one of the greatest games of his career with 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots. Jordan served notice of his energy level early on when he wrestled a rebound away from Draymond Green, in the process sending Green sprawling to the floor. On top of all that, when Warriors head coach Mark Jackson went to the Hack-the-DJ in the fourth quarter, he responded by making four out of six.
The Clippers went into the fourth quarter still nursing a five point lead. Griffin had two field goals at that point to go with his four fouls. The good news for the Clippers at that point was that the Clippers had the lead despite the fact that their leading scorer had barely done a thing. It seemed that if Griffin could get going, the Clippers would be OK.
Guess what? Griffin got going, and the Clippers were OK. Griffin made his first four field goals of the fourth quarter as the Clippers steadily built a double-digit lead. The Clippers defense also clamped down, forcing the Warriors into some difficult shots. Golden State of course has the ability to make difficult shots, and they made a few, but all you can ask the defense to do is contest shots.
The Clippers defense once again tilted the floor towards Stephen Curry. They limited the Warriors star to just ten field goal attempts while forcing him into eight turnovers. Curry's three pointer in the third quarter gave the Warriors their first lead since the first quarter at 70-69, but Paul responded with a three of his own (one of those huge shots he made) and the Clippers never trailed again.
The Clippers wound up with a balanced effort: Jordan's 25 led the team, but Paul (20), Crawford (19), Griffin (18) and Darren Collison (15) all scored in double digits. It was good in particular to see Collison get going as he has been in a major slump during the series. The rest of the bench beyond Crawford and Collison remained a non-factor, but if those two can get going it should be enough, at least in this series.
The Clippers now take a 3-2 lead in the series and have two chances to close it out, Thursday in Oakland and Saturday back here. It will continue to be a story, but clearly the Donald Sterling situation will be a little further behind them with each day, and they can focus more and more on basketball. The Warriors are a worthy foe to be sure, but the Clippers just seem to have a bit too much for them.