In the preview of this game, I included the following bullet:
You can analyze matchups all day long, dissect strengths and weaknesses. There's little question in my mind that the Clippers are the better team between these two and would win a seven game series. But any individual game may come down to how the Warriors shoot. Curry and Thompson and others are the kinds of shooters who can make shots no matter how well you defend. Some nights they make everything -- other nights, the ball doesn't go in as much. If the Warriors are making shots, they're tough to beat, and the game may just come down to that simple fact.
Well, the Warriors as a team shot 52% and Stephen Curry specifically was spectacular, just as he was the last time these teams played in Oakland. Curry made 9-14 shots, including 6-8 of his threes -- one of his misses was a wide open layup. In two games against the Clippers in Oakland this month, Curry shot a combined 20-30 and made 12 three pointers -- that's an effective field goal percentage of 87%. In the middle game of the month, played in Los Angeles, Curry was 4-11 and 1-5 from three. I don't think the Clippers defended him much differently -- he just gets silly hot sometimes, and this was one of those.
It didn't help that Chris Paul was visibly limping on the floor in this game. The bigger concern for the Clippers coming out of this game isn't the loss -- losses happen, Golden State is good, it's no big deal -- but whether Paul can be effective tomorrow against Oklahoma City. Clearly his bruised knee, originally injured nine days ago, is still very sore, and while the training staff has determined that he's not likely to aggravate the injury playing on it, the fact remains that if the pain is keeping him from being effective then he shouldn't be playing. The Clippers won three in a row while Paul was out, and he hobbled his way to four points on 1-7 shooting in this one -- let's face it, it only makes sense to play through the pain if you're actually helping the team by doing so. Furthermore, while there's nothing structural about the injury that might contraindicate playing on it, it's also true that many injuries happen when players are favoring a knee or an ankle. Playing with a sore knee is more likely to lead to an unrelated injury like a pulled muscle.
The Clippers had a great run to close the third quarter and took a seven point lead in to the fourth, and at that point it looked like maybe they had the game in hand. But Golden State played essentially the entire fourth quarter with their preferred lineup of Jack, Curry, Thompson, Landry and Lee, and with the three guards taking every shot, they quickly erased the deficit.
The loss overshadows a great game from Blake Griffin. Griffin came within two assists of a triple double, going for 26 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks. He made 11-18 from the field. It wasn't enough, though it might have been but for a few other factors.
Obviously Paul's limitations were a major factor, and the Clippers aren't likely to win a lot of games where CP3 shoots 1-7 in 33 minutes. But amazingly, the Clippers might well have won the game despite the Dubs' hot shooting and despite Paul's limitations, if they'd just made their free throws. The Warriors really only took control of the game on a Curry three pointer that gave them a 99-95 lead. But the Clippers were 12-22 from the line at that point, including four straight misses early in the fourth quarter, a pair each from Ronny Turiaf and Lamar Odom. It's funny that the single most obvious advantage of swapping Odom and Turiaf in for Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans this season was supposed to be the improved foul shooting. After all, Turiaf was a career 67% free throw shooter coming into the season and Odom was 70%. The reality is that Odom (44%) and Turiaf (36%) have been far worse than Griffin and DeAndre Jordan this season. That is a big problem, and it probably cost the Clippers the game today.
So the Warriors win the season series against the Clippers 3-1 to won, which matters in exactly two situations: (1) if the Clippers and the Warriors finish with identical regular season records, then it's the first tie-breaker for the higher seed and (2) if the teams meet in the playoffs, the Warriors would have some amount of confidence about their chances. Scenario one is not likely to happen, and I would expect the Clippers to easily handle the Warriors in a playoff series unless Curry shoots like this for seven games, so the season series thing is no big deal.
What matters now is getting ready for Oklahoma City tomorrow night, and hoping that Paul can be effective. If he can't, then he shouldn't be out there.
For the Warriors perspective visit Golden State of Mind.