Holy shit. The Clippers came down from a 31 point deficit to win the game, the largest comeback in NBA history. That’s right, NBA history. This was at Oracle Arena, against a legendarily good Warriors team, who had almost all of their players healthy. My thoughts are still a jumble, so I’ll do a regular game recap below with some notes, and then do a more detailed analysis of the win (with quotes) tomorrow. I can’t emphasize enough how crazy this game was to watch in person.
For the first few minutes, the Clippers seemed like they would make it a game. They were playing with much better energy and pace to start, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. However, DeMarcus Cousins left with a quad injury with the Clippers up 12-11, and the Clippers’ chances went downhill after. Gallo and Zu both looked hesitant and shaky offensively – Zu bobbled a couple passes, while Gallo settled for stepback jumpers against smaller defenders. The bench came in, but unlike the previous game, was not a salve for the Clippers’ woes, as they turned the ball over several times in horrid fashion, and let the Warriors score in transition. The Warriors weren’t even playing well, but still led 33-25 at the end of the 1st.
The Warriors’ 2nd unit looked much better than the previous game, as the swap of Cousins for Bogut was a huge upgrade defensively. Their lead continued to creep up, and the Clippers’ looked stymied. The Clips finally got going a bit offensively with the Lou-Trez pick and roll, but the Warriors began to hit threes to keep themselves firmly removed. The problem then, once again, became turnovers, as the Clippers stopped the Warriors in the halfcourt but floundered in transition, leading to them losing ground in the minutes without Steph and Draymond in the game. The Clippers tried switching up their defensive matchups with Gallo on KD and Beverley on Steph, but it didn’t matter, as Steph was able to get free off switches, and got scorching hot. Meanwhile, on the other end, the Clippers seemingly couldn’t find an answer, and fell further and further behind. The result was a 73-50 deficit at halftime, and a game that was already virtually over. Or so it seemed.
The 3rd quarter continued much as the 2nd ended, with the Warriors hitting open shot after open shot, and the Clippers battling, but to no avail. At one point, the Warriors’ lead was 94-63, and the game seemed truly over. Then, at the darkest hour, a rally began. The Clippers made a push behind Lou Williams’ pick and roll game with Montrezl Harrell, chipping the deficit from 31 to 21. Pat Beverley battled with Kevin Durant, forcing several offensive fouls and keeping the Clippers energized. The Warriors’ offense finally began to dry up towards the end of the period, helped by Steph Curry sitting with 4 fouls. The lead continued to dwindle, and fell to 14 after Shai got a steal at the end of the period on a careless Curry pass and dished to Chandler for an easy layup.
Right away, the Clippers set the tone in the 4th with a Landry Shamet three. They were able to get a couple stops, and had the lead to 9, but then a series of Warriors’ offensive rebounds and Clippers’ fouls put the Warriors in the bonus with over 9 minutes to go, and their lead leaped back to 16. Doc Rivers then went with a Bev-Lou-Shamet-Gallo-Trez lineup which ran a seemingly endless series of pick and rolls which the Warriors could not stop. Lou got to his spots, and either rose for impossible fadeaway jumpers or dished to Trez for tough finishes inside. Meanwhile, the Warriors’ ball movement slowed to a standstill, and the lead shrunk and shrunk. Finally, the Warriors’ lead hit 2, a single possession, and the possibility of the Clippers actually winning came into focus. However, Pat Beverley fouled out on a Draymond flop, and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’d been sitting for a while, came on in his stead.
Undaunted, the Clippers kept going to Lou, and he went to the line with a chance to cut the lead to 1 with 1:35 to go. He missed a costly free throw, but the Clippers were able to get a stop, and the Clippers came back once more. Lou rose for yet another jumper, tying the game, and sending Oracle into a state of shock. Curry, unrattled, hit a seeming backbreaking three from the wing off of bad Clippers’ communication, and the Warriors led by 3with 55.8 to go. Lou Williams, calm, cool, and collected, hit yet another fadeaway jumper, bringing the lead back down to 1. On the following possession, Klay Thompson got an open three from the top of the key, but missed it, and the Clippers got the board before calling timeout. In the deciding possession of the game, Lou Williams had the ball at the top of the key, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander set a screen for him. The Warriors trapped Lou, and Shai got the ball on the short roll. He drove towards the basket, but rather than settling for a tough midrange jumper, he found a wide open Landry Shamet on the wing, and the rookie guard buried the three to put the Clippers up 2 with 15 seconds to go. However, the Warriors still had a chance to win, and the Clippers had to “D up”. They did so, as Trez got switched onto Steph, played good defense, and forced a miss. Trez then got the board with 5.1 seconds to go, hit both free throws, and pushed the Clippers’ lead to 4. Klay missed a long three, and the Clippers won, 135-131. The crowd at Oracle, stunned, trickled out of the building in disbelief. It was a surreal scene.l scene.
- Sweet, sweet, sweet Lou Williams: Lou looked rattled in the first half. He couldn’t find any space against the Warriors’ stingy defense, and had several rough turnovers. He was just 1-4, and looked off in a way we’ve rarely seen this season. Then, the 3rd quarter came, and Lou went to work with a vengeance. He went 6-11 in the quarter, draining a couple threes as well, and put up 17 points in the period. But that was nothing compared to his play in the 4th, where he hit clutch shot after clutch shot, and made the correct play on the court every time rather than forcing looks. His pick and roll game with Montrezl Harrell was absolutely unstoppable, as the dynamic duo hooked up repeatedly to the chagrin of the Warriors. Lou finished with 36 points on 13-22 shooting (12-18 after halftime) and 11 assists. He’s one of the best offensive players in the NBA, and it was definitively proven on the biggest stage in the NBA tonight.
- Trez steps up huge: While Lou was the orchestrator of the Clippers’ offense down the stretch, Montrezl Harrell was the finisher. He made the same tough catches he’s made all season, and finished among several Warriors’ bodies time and again. There was simply no player on the Warriors who could stick with his combination of strength and quickness tonight, as he finished 9-9 from the field. More impressively, Trez came through and hit 7 of 9 free throws, including the two biggest shots of the game to push the Clippers’ lead to a two-possession game. Trez has been steady under fire all season, but tonight’s free throws at Oracle, with the crowd going insane, were some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. Props to Trez for being confident and sticking with his usual shot and form in the most critical hour.
- Pat Beverley’s energy and fight is absurd: Even with the Clippers down 31, Pat Beverley’s fight never wavered. He chirped at Kevin Durant, didn’t back down an inch from him or Steph Curry, and played defense like a madman, seemingly everywhere at once. The Warriors’ crowd hurled boos at him all night, and never more so than in the 3rd, when his defiance seemed like an ant standing up to a vaguely annoyed elephant. Yet he not only took the boobirds, but fed off them, and his play inspired the Clippers to keep up their efforts even when all seemed lost. As the 4th quarter brought the Clippers closer to a win, Beverley not only maintained his effort and defense, but was a calming influence on offense, being a steady hand with the basketball and getting the offense to run smoothly along with Lou. He’s the heart and soul of this team, and it has never been on greater display than it was tonight. The Clippers have to retain his services at all costs this summer. It’s that simple.
- Team shows trust in rookies, who rise up: Landry Shamet was shut out for most of the first half, but didn’t let that effect the rest of his play. His defense on Steph Curry was insanely impressive, as he stuck with Steph through all of the off-ball screens, and held his own against Curry in one on one even with his ballhandling wizardry. Of course, he also hit the biggest shot of the game, the three to put the Clippers ahead, and there was never any doubt from him or his teammates that he would deliver. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored only four points, all in the first period, but was equally as critical to the victory. His help defense (4 steals) was incredible in the 3rd quarter, as his long arms bothered shots and got unbelievable steals, which got the Clippers easy baskets in transition. Then, he played the final few minutes of the game after Beverley fouled out, and didn’t miss a beat. And while Landry will get a ton of credit for hitting that three, Shai’s decision-making and unselfishness in a massive moment was just as impressive – not many players would have made that read to Shamet, much less a rookie. The Clippers are so, so fortunate to have Shai and Shamet together in the backcourt, hopefully for years to come.
That’s it for me. I’m drained, and surprised I’m even writing legible sentences. More will come tomorrow. For now, just sit back and enjoy.