This game started off rather normally before going down to a wild finish. The Clippers got up early, and didn’t trail until very late in the game. Their offense in particular was on fire to start the game, with Gallo and Tobias connecting for several shots from deep. The ball was swinging around the court, the Clippers were getting into the paint at will, and the Warriors looked hard-pressed to stop them. The Dubs kept up only due to the spectacular play of Kevin Durant, who got wherever he wanted and looked unstoppable. The bench slowly started trickling in, but the same premise held: good Clippers offense, but couldn’t pull away due to defense.
Doc once again rolled with the defense-heavy wing combination of Sindarius Thornwell and Ty Wallace to start the second, to mixed results. The Clips were incredibly active, and their defense tightened up, but could not get anything going on offense due to a lack of shooting. Fortunately, a couple tough jumpers by Mike Scott and some paint scores by Harrell kept them ahead. The starters came back when the offense really started to look sloppy, and paid immediate dividends. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit three straight buckets to keep the Clippers ahead of the Warriors, who refused to let go. The Clippers had a 64-61 lead going into half, with the game clearly still in the balance.
The third quarter went in much the same way. Shai passed up an open 3, resulting in a turnover, but then followed it up with a midrange jumper, a steal, and a layup. The Clippers’ defense in general improved greatly, preventing Durant from getting to his spots and keeping a lid on Klay Thompson. But the Warriors’ own defense stepped up, leading to some buckets in transition. Doc brought in the bench for some energy and they provided it, especially Harrell. Durant even picked up his 5th foul on a Trez and-one, and the Clippers led by eight going into the 4th.
The Clippers’ lead kept growing, mostly with defense and a diet of Montrezl feasting in the post. However, the Warriors refused to go away, and the Clippers’ bench lack of shooting again led to some congested driving lanes and tough turnovers. The Clippers maintained a slight double-digit lead, and when Shai blocked Draymond, followed by Trez blocking him on the follow-up, they seemed in control. Then, all of a sudden, things collapsed. From the 6:08 mark on, the Clippers failed to convert a single field goal, going 0-11. The offense completely stagnated, resulting mostly in tough midrange jumpers and wild shots in the paint. Gallinari and Lou were particularly at fault, though the rest of the Clippers weren’t doing much either. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson went off, shaking free for several jumpers. The Warriors even had a chance to win the game, but Draymond took the ball up the court himself rather than giving it to Durant, and Shai knocked the ball away.
The Clippers offense continued to flail to start OT, and an Andre Iguodala 3 put the Warriors up. But then Durant finally fouled out guarding Harrell in the post, and the Clippers went on a 15-7 run the rest of the way to win, sparked mostly by Lou Williams’ drives and Montrezl Harrell’s hustle. Ultimately, they hung on to win 121-116 in a huge win against a still very good Warriors team, even lacking Steph Curry.
- Montrezl Harrell was spectacular: Montrezl Harrell was the Clippers’ best player tonight, and it wasn’t close. He had 23 points on 10-13 shooting (3-5 from the free throw line), pulled down 8 rebounds, and had 4 emphatic blocks, all in 32 minutes of action. More importantly, he hustled all over the court, snagging loose ball, rotating smartly on defense, and generally making a nuisance of himself. Despite playing at a 100% activity level, he seemingly never got tired, and his finishing inside was the Clippers’ best offensive option most of the game. He’s just really, really good, and while he’s better coming off the bench, one has to think he’s rising up the ranks of centers in this league.
- Marcin Gortat has best game as a Clipper: While Harrell was deadly, the man he replaced in the middle also played well tonight. Marcin Gortat had by far his strongest performance as a Clipper, recording 12 points on 4-5 shooting and bringing in 6 rebounds in 21 minutes. While he was caught out on the perimeter a few times by the Warriors, he provided some rim protection as well, and was just more engaged in general. If the Clippers can get this level of play from him more frequently, they will be in very good shape indeed.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to improve: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another impressive game, scoring 18 points on 8-11 shooting, and adding 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block. His defense was once again mostly solid, even taking on the tough assignment of sticking with Klay off-ball at various points. He did have four turnovers, and continues to pass up threes he needs to take, but his ability to get into the lane and finish is incredible, and he just brings so many positive qualities to the Clippers. It’s hard not to get hyperbolic about him, but he’s unquestionably been a positive on both sides of the court for the Clippers, which is absolutely astounding for a rookie. The best news is that there are still so many ways he can get better, and he’s working hard to get there.
- Clutch offense remains an issue: Amidst all the positivity, it must be said that the Clippers almost blew this game in hideous fashion. Their crunch-time offense remains a complete nightmare, and doesn’t look like it’s getting solved any time soon. All the ball movement and player movement the Clippers run throughout the game stops, and they resort to simple passes to get switches and then ISO. Frequently, they don’t even run pick and roll, which is crazy considering how deadly the Lou-Trez pick and roll is. The Clippers don’t have a true go-to player, which makes it tough, but they absolutely make it harder on themselves by refusing to run their offense under no pressure from the defense at all. Lou Williams is awesome, and his ability to get fouls won the Clippers the game in OT, but he’s not a superstar who will always get a good shot off, and Danilo Gallinari certainly isn’t either. The good news is that the Clippers seem to keep their composure, and don’t let offense effect their defense. Still, they need to get their crunch-time offense into gear.
The Clippers next play on Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs, in what should be another fun contest. This was a tremendous win for the Clippers against the Warriors, who are still very dangerous even without Steph Curry. At 8-5, they’re looking more and more legitimate, and their depth is something other teams can only envy.