The Clippers definitely had some jitters to start the game, and not just from their young players. They rushed shots, made several careless turnovers, and generally looked out of sorts. Ivica Zubac in particular seemed unprepared for the moment, blowing a couple defensive rotations and appearing unaware on offense. After a Doc yell session, Zu sat, and would not reappear the rest of the half. However, Montrezl Harrell’s arrival marked a turning of the tide, as he immediately got to work scoring in the paint. The Warriors countered by hitting threes, and from some unlikely sources – Draymond Green hit two, and DeMarcus another one. The Warriors might have run away with it, but a series of turnovers along with some slick Lou-Trez plays kept the Clippers attached, 36-27.
The Clippers’ started off the 2nd quarter like gangbusters. Lou and Trez relentlessly attacked Cousins in the pick and roll, and were able to generate numerous easy shots at the rim. Lou, especially, was able to do whatever he wanted, and was even able to give the Clippers a brief lead. Meanwhile, Garrett Temple played lockdown defense on Klay Thompson. However, Steve Kerr went to his “Hampton’s 5” lineup with Green at center, and that lineup tightened on defense significantly. The Warriors began to edge ahead, with Harrell’s tremendous play keeping them in it. The last minute or two, however, was disastrous, as Lou Williams didn’t get two calls on drives to the basket, the Clippers got frustrated, and the Warriors poured on 10 points in nothing flat to take a 69-56 halftime lead.
Most of the first half of the 3rd quarter played evenly, as the Clippers began to hit more of their threes, but allowed offensive rebounds to GS, enabling second-chance points. They were never able to close the gap to less than 10, but prevented the Warriors from pushing the lead past 14. That is, until Steph got going late in the quarter, draining several of his trademark threes and exploiting the Clippers’ poor transition defense. The Clippers could not answer, as Temple missed two corner threes and Green clanked one from the wing. Doc adjusted, cutting his rotation short by bringing back Shai and Shamet early for Temple and Beverley, and leaving Chandler on the bench.
Down nearly 20, the Clippers continued to fight, opening the quarter with a couple threes, but then coughing the ball up two times in ugly fashion, leading to easy Warriors’ points in transition. The Clippers fought the lead down to 12, leading to the re-insertion of Steph and KD. The next three minutes were the KD-Beverley show, as the two chirped back and forth, leading to two sets of double technical – and, subsequently, ejections for both players. The Clippers hung around, just within reach, but some poor shots by Gallo and more magic from Steph put the Clippers in a coffin. Doc conceded the game a few minutes before time ran out, and guys like Jerome Robinson and Sindarius Thornwell were able to get a taste of the playoffs before the game ended. The Warriors won, 121-104, in what was an entertaining and hard-fought game, if one that wasn’t particularly close.
- Lou and Trez magnificent: For much of the evening, the Clippers’ only reliable source of offense was from Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The two bench dynamos put on a pick and roll clinic, especially in the first half, as Lou was able to carve up the Warriors’ defense, while Trez finished time and again inside. The Warriors made an effort to slow them down in the 2nd half, but they continued to play well, as Trez got offensive boards, and Lou made plays without forcing too much. Trez finished with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks on 11-16 shooting, and was just a whirling bundle of energy the entire game. The only mark on his game was his 4-8 free throw shooting. Lou ended the contest with 25 points and 9 assists on 11-21 shooting, and his defense, miraculously, wasn’t noticeably bad out there. If the Clippers are to have any shot at winning a game, they will need more efforts like this from Lou and Trez, who showed on national television why they’re the best bench players in the NBA.
- Shai stands out among young guys: Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac had rough playoff debuts. Zu got chewed out early for poor defense, and finished the game playing only 10 minutes with 0 points. While his minutes will probably be low all series, the Clippers need him to play better in his limited time. Shamet, meanwhile, was absolutely swallowed up by the Warriors’ defense, especially in the 1st half. When he finally did get free a few times in the 3rd and 4th quarters, he rushed his shots, and ended the game 1-6 from the field with 3 points. His defense, however, was solid. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, on the other hand, showed his mettle, scoring 18 points on 6-16 shooting, and appearing completely unafraid of the moment. He was aggressive from start to finish, and was certainly the Clippers’ best starter on the evening. Steph Curry torched him a couple times, but it’s Steph Curry – he does that to everyone. Shai played his heart out, and honestly, his defense was fine for the most part. He needs to continue playing aggressively, because it led to good results today.
- Beverley-KD shenanigans: While I greatly appreciate Beverley’s attitude and defense, today he seemed to take himself out of the game more than Durant. Bev only scored 3 points on 1-6 shooting (1-4 from three), and though he did add 7 rebounds and 7 assists, the Clippers need him to score more, or their starting lineup will be outmatched completely. Pat played well, outside of missing shots, but the Warriors never seemed particularly rattled in this one, while the Clippers did, especially at the end of the 2nd quarter, which is where the game was really lost. The Clippers need to keep their composure too, because the Warriors are great at piling on when they sense weakness.
- Future adjustments: There will be more on this in the coming days, but I think both coaches will shift small earlier in Game 2. DeMarcus Cousins was played off the court by Lou and Trez, fouling out in the process, and the Warriors were a staggering -17 with him on the court in 21 minutes. Kevon Looney was far more effective as the center, while lineups with Green at the pivot were best of all, completely shutting down the Clippers’ offense. For the Clippers, Zu proved ineffective (though this will hopefully be a first game jitters type of thing), and lineups with Green at center definitely opened up the offense a bit. It’s possible we continue to just sit token minutes for Zu, with Trez and Green eating most of the minutes at center. The Clippers’ defense was great in the post, as they helped off the Warriors’ bigs with abandon, and forced KD and Klay into tough looks. Unfortunately, they ran into a great Steph night. It happens.
That’s all for this one! The game was competitive and chippy throughout, and while the Warriors won by 17, Steph Curry didn’t leave the court until under two minutes to go; the Clippers kept them working until nearly the very end. If they can play at this level defensively while making a few more threes, they could force a couple legitimately close games. Fingers crossed.