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Clippers Hang In Longer But Fall To Warriors, 133-120

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The Clippers stayed close for three quarters, but came up short in a late comeback.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s nearly impossible to beat the Golden State Warriors when they bring their best game. They left their best at home tonight, but beat the Clippers anyway, 133-120.

Missing starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia plus key reserves Shaun Livingston and David West, the suddenly JaVale McGee-ful Warriors played ordinarily enough to let the Clippers hang around for most of three quarters and make half a comeback near the end of the fourth.

Judging solely from the box score, you might not know that it wasn’t a Golden State classic. In ringing up 133 points and invoking Lawler’s Law with almost 13 minutes remaining, the Warriors shot 41% from deep and 52.5% overall. The killer in the ironic clothes though, was that the Warriors’ advantage over the Clippers was built by forcing turnovers and rebounding misses. Golden State bothered the Clippers into 15 turnovers on 10 steals, and finished plus-six in offensive rebounds.

As has been the case through their recent Chris Paul-less swoon, it hasn’t been the LA offense that’s struggled. The Clippers slashed exactly 50/40 from the field and three, and shot a respectable 77% on 39 free throw attempts. They also tallied 33, 32, and 33 over the final three quarters, aping their opponents’ formula of transition buckets plus half-court threes.

Blake Griffin continued his high-level post-injury play with 31 points, ending the Clippers’ curious 30-point-scorer drought, the longest in the league. He added back-to-back signature plays late in the first half, putting a ducking Kevon Looney on a poster and attacking Kevin Durant for a layup plus one on consecutive possessions.

Sadly, it’s the defense that continues to fail. The Warriors found open space both inside and out, a fatal combination, as the Clippers’ lack of cohesion was apparent. With injury-induced starters Austin Rivers and Ray Felton joining the recently returned Griffin, the Clippers were unable to execute their second and third defensive rotations against a never-ending attack of motion and ball movement. DeAndre Jordan, trying to plug all the leaks in an increasingly creaky Clipper ship, scuffled in particular, no more so than in a nightmarish first quarter in which he spun himself dizzy while collecting zero rebounds and a technical foul.

For the Warriors, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were unable to hit from range, combining to miss 12 of their 17 three-point attempts, but still scored 29 and 26 respectively. Durant added 10 assists and finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double. Curry handed out a game-high 11 assists.

Durant suppressed the Clippers’ fourth-quarter 14-2 run with an ice-cold three with just 1:35 remaining to salvage a 10-point lead that had been trimmed from 21. Klay Thompson, who added 21 points, hit from deep approximately 30 seconds later to remove any doubts.

JaVale McGee, getting the start with so many of Steve Kerr’s big men hobbled, acquitted himself well in 15 minutes, many of which he played in foul trouble due to their sudden lack of depth. He recorded 11 points and eight rebounds with a block and battled DeAndre ably throughout the night.

Jamal Crawford excelled, tallying 21 and knocking down five of eight threes. He and Austin Rivers, who scored 18 with a team-high six assists, keyed the late-game run that had writers like this one sweating out half-typed recaps.

JJ Redick scored 17 and attached himself to Curry for long defensive stretches, although some people — cough, Warriors fans, cough cough — might correctly point out that he made liberal use of Chris Paul’s signature tugging.

Notables:

  • The TNT broadcast noted that this was the Warriors’ NBA-leading 33rd game this season with 30+ assists. (They had 37.) The second-place team, the San Antonio Spurs, have nine such games. NINE.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute was notably absent from most of this one. He logged just 18 seconds in the first half, finishing with only four minutes total. Doc’s decision to keep him on ice is a surprising one given the Clippers’ recent and distinct lack of defensive competence.
  • Felton, whose right shoulder has been wrapped while nursing an injury, aggravated that very same shoulder in a third quarter collision that may bear watching.