The Clippers’ 14-2 start to the season feels like it was five years ago now. LAC was embarrassed on their own floor tonight, as the Warriors came into Staples Center and routed them by a score of 115-98.
Despite having two full days to rest and prepare for this game, the Clippers just didn’t have it. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin looked weirdly discombobulated, and, despite a few surges that made things temporarily interesting, this one was never close.
It wound up being one of Griffin’s worst games as a professional. He finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, but shot just 5/20 from the floor and turned the ball over a whopping seven times.
With Griffin struggling the Clippers needed CP3 to step up and assert himself offensively, but he never did, either. He scored 15 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists, though he wasn’t his usual aggressive self despite the fact that he tends to rise to the occasion against the league’s best. J.J. Redick provided nothing, either, as he knocked down just one shot and scored two points in 21 minutes.
This game got off to quite the sluggish start, as two of the league’s top offenses combined to muster a whopping five points in the first three minutes. The Clippers missed 10 of their first 12 shots and turned the ball over four times over those first three minutes, but fortunately for them the Warriors weren’t able to make them pay early on.
Klay Thompson, after dropping 60 points in 29 minutes last time out, missed his first four attempts from the floor. Not to be outdone, Blake Griffin coughed the ball up four times himself before the first frame was halfway over with.
It didn’t take long for Golden State to start making the Clippers play for their sloppy play, though. LAC was playing a weirdly rigid, tense style, likely a result of coming into the game overly amped. Two more turnovers by the home team led to easy layups on the break for Steph Curry, and suddenly Golden State had built themselves an 11-point lead before LAC even knew what hit them.
The Clips’ ball movement wasn’t bad, but the Warriors looked so spry and active defensively that it was tough for L.A. to get anything going toward the basket. Meanwhile, the Clippers’ rotations weren’t as crisp as they needed to be on the other end. Golden State assisted on 13 of their first 14 buckets to open up a 37-19 advantage after the first 12 minutes.
Let’s compare shot charts from that quarter, shall we?
And here’s Golden State’s:
That’s an awful lot of green right around the basket for the Warriors. GSW is always lethal when they’re able to get out and run in the open floor, and the Clippers certainly paid the price for their nine turnovers in the first.
Things really got out of hand once Jamal Crawford entered at about the midway point. He was a -17 in about five minutes, which really seems like it shouldn’t be mathematically possible.
The Clippers were just playing dumb basketball at this point with mostly reserves on the floor. Austin Rivers and Crawford missed consecutive shots they had no business taking, which again allowed the Warriors to get out and fly in transition. That forced Doc Rivers to come back with CP3 and Griffin with just under 10 minutes left in the half.
Griffin’s reinsertion instantly paid dividends, as he awakened Staples Center from its collective slumber with this thunderous stick-back jam right on top of Draymond Green’s head:
Griffin giving Green "DEEZ NUTS" https://t.co/u5FPJnN85P— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) December 8, 2016
That capped a 6-0 Clipper run and closed the deficit to 14.
Crawford hit a pair of ridiculous three-balls at the death of the shot clock, and a beautiful dime from Griffin to a cutting CP3 really got the crowd going. The Clips had crept within 11, forcing a timeout from Steve Kerr.
LAC tightened the screws in the second. After the turnover-laden first, they didn’t turn the ball over once over the first seven minutes of the second period.
That layup seemed to get Paul going, as he canned a pair of elbow jumpers off of screens from DeAndre to make it a seven-point contest.
Things got a bit shaky for the Clippers in the waning moments, but going into the break with a 13-point deficit after trailing by as many as 20 earlier in the game was a minor victory.
The fact that Golden State held a double-digit lead on the road at the break was fairly surprising considering Kevin Durant was essentially a non-factor. He hit just three of his 11 shots and mustered eight points in the half, yet his club was no worse for the wear.
Whatever momentum the Clips had built at the end of the first half was zapped almost instantly to begin the third. Griffin turned the ball over yet again on the first possession, which resulted in an easy layup for Green on the other end. LAC didn’t score a point until a J.J. Redick jumper in the lane with just under nine minutes left, and GSW quickly rebuilt a 17-point lead.
When they weren’t throwing the ball right to Curry, the Clippers were having to settle for desperation shots at the end of the shot clock. Nothing at all was working on offense, and a three from Durant - his first of the game - put the Warriors up 24.
The Clippers couldn’t generate an open look to save their lives. Golden State’s closeouts were on-point, and even if a Griffin pump fake managed to get the primary defender in the air, a secondary guy would come flying in to challenge the shot immediately. LAC was getting completely worked.
With the starters unable to deliver, the bench came in and crept back into it a bit. Golden State started getting a bit careless with the ball, which kept the door open for L.A. to get a little momentum going. After trailing by as many as 27, the Clips trailed by 16 going into the fourth.
Again, the Clipper mini surge was short-lived. The Dubs’ lead swelled back to 20 before Doc once again went back to the starters, hoping they’d be able to mount one final rally.
Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of this game for LAC was the fact that the Warriors weren’t even operating at full capacity. Durant, Thompson and Curry combined to shoot just 20/51, with KD and Steph hitting just one combined three-pointer. Despite the relatively poor shooting of Golden State’s stars, the Clips just had nothing tonight. The only good part is that Doc didn’t feel the need to run Paul Pierce out there. Had he done that the Clips may have lost by 50 again.
The Warriors won this game with ball movement. 32 of their 42 made baskets were assisted, while the Clippers assisted on just 15 of their 36 makes from the floor. That just about sums it up. The ball was flying all over the floor for GSW, while the Clippers were forced to settle for too many isolation looks. That has never been a recipe for success for the Clipper offense, so the end result is no major surprise.
This was Golden State’s seventh straight regular season win against the Clippers. L.A. will have a few days to lick their wounds and go back to the drawing board on Saturday night against the Pelicans.
This game sucked, but just remember that it’s still December 7th. We have a loooooong way to go before the season ends, and the Clippers have the talent to make this a competitive rivalry in the future.
Now isn’t the time to stop believing in the Clips. Take it from Journey Cat: