As if Kawhi Leonard torturing them yet again wasn’t enough, the Warriors were dismantled by the Clippers, 141-122, in the first-ever regular season game at Chase Center.
It was the second win in a row for the new-look Clippers to open the season.
Leonard, whose last trip to the Bay Area resulted in a Finals victory and the end of the Warriors as they had come to be known, scored 21 points with five rebounds and a career-high nine assists in just 21 minutes. His 9-for-17 shooting performance was indicative of the Clippers’ night overall. They made 62.3 percent of their field goal attempts through three quarters where they pulled away, taking a 24-point lead into the fourth.
Patrick Patterson, making his second start of the season, scored 20 points, including going 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Lou Williams added 22 points and eight assists, Ivica Zubac had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Montrezl Harrell finished with 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
Playing without Klay Thompson, who is likely to miss most of the season while recovering from a torn ACL, the Warriors got 20-plus points from Stephen Curry (23) and newcomer D’Angelo Russell (20). But Thursday’s debut did little to quell many of the questions about who the Warriors (0-1) will be after losing Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason.
The Clippers ran roughshod over Golden State, racing out to a 14-0 lead before Russell briefly gave the Warriors life with 10-straight points. From there, the pick-and-roll dance of Williams and Harrell, Zubac inside, and, surprisingly, Patterson, kept the Warriors at arm’s length until halftime.
They took an 11-point game and turned it into blowout just 8 minutes into the third, outscoring Golden State, 39-19, to start the quarter before an emphatic two-handed dunk by Harrell forced a timeout by Warriors coach Steve Kerr with 3:55 still to go and the Clippers up, 104-71. The hushed crowd, and lopsided score was somewhat of a reckoning. The Warriors had defeated the Clippers by 16 or more points six times in the regular season since the start of 2016-17 and won 16 of the last 18.
But that seemed like ancient history by night’s end.
“We feel like we have a group that can do some really good things. We’re a confident group,” Williams said. “So, we’re not surprised [with our start], but we’ve got to keep building.”
For all of the things that make Leonard great, passing is not often considered one of his strengths. In the preseason, Clippers coaches and reporters raved about him pulling out a new bag of tools with some of the decisions he was making as a facilitator. He had eight assists in a preseason game, for example. On Thursday, he showed the entire repertoire, throwing a wraparound pass to Patrick Beverley, softly dropping the ball off to Zubac for lay-in, and connecting on a nice bounce pass to a cutter all within the first 3 minutes of the game.
CHASING THE LIGHT
The Clippers getting selected to play the first game in the sparkling new Chase Center seemed apropo after appearing in the regular season finale at Oracle Arena in April. Prior to Thursday, the last game in San Francisco was in 1971 against... the Buffalo Braves.
Entering halftime, it felt like the Clippers should have been ahead by far more than 65-54. That changed quickly in the third quarter. In a lot of ways it resembled the Warriors past third quarter suffocation of their opponent. The Clippers outscored the Warriors, 39-19, over the first 8:05 of the period, grabbing a 31-point stranglehold on the game behind Leonard’s brilliance, 3-point shooting from Patterson, Williams, and Landry Shamet, and the relentlessness of Harrell and Beverley.
Patterson’s 20-point night was his highest scoring game since Feb. 10, 2014 when he dropped 22 points while with the Raptors… The Clippers bench combined to score 128 points in the team’s first two games… Kevon Looney did not play in the second half due to injury… Leonard’s career-best passing night topped his eight-assist night in Toronto last year. Prior to that he had never had more than seven assists in a game…
THEY GOT NEXT
The Clippers continue their opening week Saturday evening in their first of two trips to Phoenix. They will take on a Suns team that picked up a surprising, and resounding, opening night victory over Sacramento, and are on the second night of a back-to-back after visiting Denver on Friday. The Clippers own a 12-game winning streak over the Suns, dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season. Overall, the Clippers have won 24 of the past 28 games against Phoenix, including 11 of 13 in the Valley of the Sun.