One aspect of Game 6 that I meant to mention in the recap was the end of quarter possessions. The Clippers tend to be pretty good on final possessions, but in Game 6 they completely lost the battle. That is in stark contrast to Game 5, where their five point lead heading into the fourth quarter was more or less attributable to some huge buzzer beaters ending the second and third quarters.
Final possessions in quarters come down to a couple of things: clock management and then the ability to actually score on those key possessions. There's a difference between making a lucky shot at the end of a quarter and missing a great shot. You always want the points, but the first step is to get a good shot.
Simply getting the final possession in a quarter is more important than people realize in a game between evenly matched teams. Offensive rebounds obviously equal extra possessions -- but given that most other possessions in a basketball game are balanced by giving the other team the ball (defensive rebounds, made baskets, etc.) that final possession of the quarter (where the next possession is pre-determined) is almost like a steal or an offensive rebound -- you're getting a possession that the other team will not get.
At the end of the first quarter, clock management was taken out of the Clippers hands. Marreese Speights fouled Darren Collision with 40 seconds left in the quarter and about 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock -- presumably had that foul not been committed, the Clippers would have held the ball for another 10 seconds to shoot with about 30 seconds left in the quarter, giving themselves the two-for-one. Instead, it was the Warriors who wound up with the final possession. Note that while Speights did not foul Collison on purpose, statistically speaking it's not a bad strategy. It's a very good strategy to foul a bad free throw shooter in that situation -- Gregg Popovich employs the Hack-the-DJ at the end of quarters and it's the one time I agree that it's a smart play -- but even with an excellent free throw shooter like Collison it's a little better than break even. Possessions are worth points, and getting the final possession for yourself while taking it away from the other team is important.
What really hurt in at the end of the first was the way the Clippers fell asleep on the offensive glass. They defended Steph Curry's initial shot very well, but once that shot went up the team behaved as if they thought the quarter was already over. Curry's shot was an airball, but a hustling Harrison Barnes ran right passed Danny Granger to grab the airball, and when his shot was also an airball, Jordan Crawford had an uncontested tip in, as Granger lay underneath the basket and four other Clippers stood slack jawed.
At the end of the second quarter, the clock management part went better. Collison once again got to the line, this time at the magical 30 second mark, assuring the Clippers would have their 2-for-1. The rest went less well, unfortunately. The Clippers gave up a layup to Steph Curry on one end, then Jamal Crawford missed a three as the first half clock was winding down. Trying to take a page out of Golden State's book, Matt Barnes grabbed the rebound and was pretty clearly hacked on the arm as he tried to lay it in -- no call. Barnes was lucky he didn't pick up a technical foul at the lack of a call (his luck would run out in the fourth quarter).
Once again at the end of the third quarter, the Clippers handled the clock well and orchestrated the perfect 2-for-1. Once again their final shot missed. And once again the shooter was livid at the absence of a foul call. At the end of the third, Crawford was beside himself looking for a referee to berate after Curry rode him off his driving shot.
So through the first three quarters, the Warriors had stolen two points off a lazy Clippers team in the first quarter, while the Clippers had gone scoreless on final possessions -- though the referees could have changed that pretty easily. Entering the fourth it was a three point Warriors lead. The final score was a one point Warriors win.
In games this close, all these little things matter.