The Clippers, as they have the past two games, started off slow. This one had a different wrinkle in that the Scott Foster-helmed refereeing crew was calling every foul in sight, disrupting any kind of rhythm. The Clippers also seemed a bit nervous offensively, with several shots that missed by feet, and a focus on dribbling rather than passing. The Warriors’ defense was much sharper with Bogut, and the Clippers could not get anything going, even with JaMychal Green replacing Ivica Zubac early. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant cooked on the other end, knocking down shot after shot regardless of who the Clippers threw at him. Then Steph got going, as the Warriors figured out the top-locking defense with backdoor cuts and passes thrown at better angles. Green and Wilson Chandler hit a trio of threes late to keep the Clippers somewhat attached, but the Warriors led 41-24 after one.
The Clippers started off the 2nd quarter in a flurry with a Lou to Trez dunk, and then a Trez and-one on Bogut with a sick crossover move. But then a long clock delay seemed to evaporate the Clippers’ momentum, and the Warriors went right back to work. The Clippers began to get more stops, but could not keep the Warriors off the glass, and second-chance opportunities led to several easy threes. Doc Rivers turned to a Lou-Beverley-Shamet-Gallo-Green lineup to get the offense juiced, and it made a bit of a run to cut it to 16. However, a missed Shamet corner three led to a KD and-one the other way, making a six point swing. The Clippers battled, but continued to miss makeable shots, and their starting lineup ended the half shooting 3-19 from the field and 1-10 from three. The Clippers trailed 73-52, hanging on by a virtual thread.
The Clippers had a legitimate chance to get back into the game at the start of the quarter. The Warriors were misfiring to start, and a couple Clippers baskets had the lead down to 18. Then, Gallo missed an open three, Shamet missed an open three, and Gallo missed another shot from deep (all while the Clippers got stops), and what could have been a 9 point deficit remained at 18. The Warriors, brief drought over, started to return fire, and their lead grew once more. Gallo continued to get open looks, and miss them, and the Clippers were soon down 31 once more. A switch seemed to be flicked again, as the Clippers put forth a flurry of scoring spearheaded by Lou Williams, but this time they could not get any stops or defensive rebounds, and the Warriors lead remained in the 30s. From the last couple minutes of the 3rd quarter on, the game sat firmly in “garbage time” mode. The Clippers slowly shifted to their 3rd stringers (as well as Zu), and let the game run out. The only thing of note is that Zu finally get going a bit with a few baskets and offensive rebounds, which could be good if he gets real minutes down the line.
- Gallo is frigid: The entire starting lineup was awful, but Gallo’s play was particularly atrocious. He was 2-13 from the field and 0-8 from three, with most of them being open, or at least decent looks. Most of his shots didn’t even look close, and his second make was right before he got taken out of the game in what was already garbage time. As mentioned above, most of his misses were also at brutal, momentum-shifting moments, and his continued misses destroyed any chance the Clippers had of keeping the game even semi-competitive. To put a capper on what was assuredly one of the worst games of Gallo’s career, he had several really bad turnovers and played poor defense. Outside of getting to the line a few times early, he did nothing well tonight. He was the Clippers best player this season, and they need him to be his usual self if they are to have any chance at winning another game this series.
- Starting lineup is not working: While Gallo was the biggest, and most significant culprit, nobody in the Clippers’ starting unit played well in this one. Shai couldn’t get himself free on offense, and came up short on the few shots he was able to attempt. Defensively, he had his worst showing in quite a while, consistently looking out of place and a step slow. Pat Beverley had no effect on Kevin Durant, and was nearly invisible on offense. Landry Shamet was completely shut down once more (as he has been for this entire series barring the second half of Game 2), and his defense wavered from the highs he reached on Steph last game. Finally, Zubac appeared unplayable in his early stint, as he has all series, and didn’t reenter the game until garbage time. In the 4th quarter, he actually played well, grabbing numerous offensive rebounds and finishing inside, so at the very least, hopefully he’s built up some confidence for the remainder of the series. As for the lineup itself, it just can’t generate offense against this Warriors’ team, and while the insertion of JaMychal Green for Zu will help, it’s probably not enough. The Clippers need more shot creation and ball-handling, and the only real way to do it is to put in Lou Williams, but subbing him for any of the Shamet-Bev-Shai trio would just make the defense even worse.
- Warriors turn up the heat: The Warriors made some adjustments in this one, and it showed. Kevin Durant got the ball early and often, and made mincemeat of the smaller Clippers’ defenders. He ended the game with 38 points on 23 shots, and could have gone for 50+ easily if the game had been closer. Pat Beverley will get another shot at him next game, but it might be time to stick Gallo on him and see what his length can do. Steph and Klay were able to free themselves from the Clippers top-locking, and got mostly open looks all night, especially Steph. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala were both aggressive, taking the space the Clippers gave them to attack the basket and make plays for others. The Warriors moved the ball and didn’t turn it over, generating easy looks time and again. Their defense was better as well, especially on Lou Williams, but looked stronger than it was due to the iciness of the Clippers’ attack. Now it’s time for Doc Rivers and the Clippers to make adjustments as well.
- Poor rebounding: While the Clippers ended the game with 43 rebounds to the Warriors 50, and had 16 offensive boards to the Warriors’ 10, a huge chunk of those rebounds were from Zubac in garbage time. When the game mattered, the Clippers were helpless on the glass, surrendering offensive rebounds far too frequently against a team that wasn’t missing much as it was. They didn’t box out, looked out of position far too often, and showed very little effort in chasing boards or recovering to shooters once the Warriors had grabbed the miss. It was a dismal performance on the glass, and considering that’s often an area where hustle plays a huge factor, it was a massive disappointment. The Clippers need to be much, much better there.
- Do the Clippers have any hope?: The Clippers put up a good fight in Game 1, but were down nearly start to finish. In the historic Game 2, they trailed by 31 before taking advantage of lax Warriors play to put together a massive second half comeback. In today’s game, they were destroyed in the 1st and 3rd quarters, and barely fought even in the 2nd. Essentially, they’ve been greatly outplayed for most of this series. That was to be expected, but it’s still not great news for optimists who thought the Clippers could make this a series after Game 2. I think they can make Game 4 competitive if they hit their shots and hit the glass harder, but to win, they’ll probably need some real adjustments to the rotation and defensive schemes. We will see what Doc and the coaching staff come up with over the next couple days.
That’s it! The next game is Sunday at 12:30 PM PT, and will be the swing game in this series. If the Clippers can win, they’ll basically turn the series into a best-of-three heading to Oracle. If they lose, they will face elimination in Game 5.