The Clippers started with JaMychal Green in place of Ivica Zubac, and the switch brought immediate dividends. While Green himself was mostly quiet, the additional spacing and offense weapon saw a revitalized starting unit. However, the story of the quarter was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who did everything for the Clippers. He was active defensively, made some nice passes, and, most importantly, was aggressive in seeking his own shot. Shai had 14 of the Clippers’ first 20 points, keeping them in the game even with Danilo Gallinari still struggling greatly and Landry Shamet not getting open. However, the game turned when the Clippers were up 22-20: the bench came in, and could not score or get defensive rebounds. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson got untracked, hitting a series of tough shots, and keying a 12-0 Warriors run to put them up 10 at the end of the period.
Doc had closed the 1st with Jerome Robinson, and, unbelievably enough, he started the 2nd quarter on the court as well. Even more shockingly, he and Wilson Chandler put the Clippers on their backs for the next few minutes. They each hit a couple pullup jumpers, Jerome added a three, and then had a gorgeous steal and dunk in the fastbreak. The overall effect was a 13-3 run to tie the game, and bringing the Warriors’ starters back in. The Warriors then went on another run, once again powered by incredible shotmaking from Klay. The Clippers were able to hang around, but an invisible Gallinari and some missed free throws were costly. Gallo finally seemed to get going on a couple free throws and a poster on Draymond Green, but Durant came right back the other way with an and-one dunk on Shamet, as the Clippers failed to get back on defense. The Clippers responded, and cut the lead to 4, but Durant closed the quarter on a ridiculous four-point play, putting them up 62-54.
The Clippers started the 3rd quarter about as poorly as possible, turning the ball over on their first two possessions. Fortunately, the Warriors did so as well, and the game picked up from there. Both teams began to find their rhythms offensively, with Shai once again doing a ton of damage as a scorer and playmaker. Once he got going, he started to flash some stuff we haven’t seen yet, taking it right at Draymond for a reverse layup, and then doing a series of dribble moves on Steph before pulling up from midrange. With Shai getting loose, the rest of the Clippers did as well – Landry Shamet hit a couple threes, putting the Clippers ahead, and Staples got LOUD. The Clips looked connected defensively, disciplined and intense, and were even getting offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, it was their offense that let them down, as Gallinari and Shamet missed open threes, while Gallo and Chandler each had hideous turnovers. The Warriors retook the lead, and were up 87-84 going into the final frame.
The Warriors started the 4th without Steph or KD, but the Clippers could not take advantage, as they failed to score with the Lou-Trez pick and roll, and gave up offensive rebounds which led to Klay jumpers. The Warriors went up 8, and with KD and Steph checking back in, it seemed like the Clippers’ hopes were done. However, Gallo finally hit a three, cutting the lead to five, and the Clippers were able to hang around the next couple minutes. The death knell arrived with 5:50 to go, when Steve Kerr put in the Death Lineups/Hamptons 5 with the Warriors up six. The Clippers could not free themselves at all on offense, and resorted to Gallinari and Lou ISOS. In some games, that might have worked, but neither was feeling it tonight, and the results were a lot of ugly, bricked jumpers and shots around the rim. The Clippers were able to stay in things with free throws and the Warriors missing some looks, but never really threatened. Then, Lou turned the ball over on a wayward drive, and KD hit a three on the next possession, putting the Warriors up 11 with just over 2 minutes to go. The Clippers scored a few times on what were essentially garbage time points, but could not string together any stops, and the Warriors came away with the 113-105 victory.
- Shai stands out on national stage: In the biggest game of the Clippers’ season, their youngest star shone the brightest. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander exploded for 25 points (on 9-15 shooting), the highest in Clippers’ playoff history for a rookie. He hit threes, made his free throws, finished at the rim, and cooked in isolation. He threw in some nice passes and solid defense as well for a complete, outstanding performance. It’s the type of game that promises great, great things for SGA, and him doing this against the Warriors on ABC is the kind of thing that will help his profile boost substantially going forward. He’s for real, and the Clippers have to be incredibly excited for his future with the team. His iso shot against Curry in the 3rd quarter was simply unbelievable.
- Gallo and Lou struggle: Doc was asked after the game if the Clippers can win when Gallo and Lou shoot as poorly as they did (7-30), and he gave the perfect answer “there’s a way, but it’s hard”. The Clippers needed Lou and Gallo to show up strong for this one, and outside a couple flashes, they came up empty. Gallo killed the Clippers’ momentum early with missed jumpers and flailing shots inside, while Lou was relied upon late in the game to no avail. The Warriors have snuffed out the Lou-Trez pick and roll, and the Clippers have not been able to get Lou or Trez going any other way. It was great that the Clippers’ young guys showed out, but they needed Lou and Gallo to get this victory, and it just didn’t happen. Hopefully, if nothing else, they play better in Game 5, even in a losing effort, to close this season on a better note.
- JaMychal makes a difference: Doc Rivers said that the change to the starting lineup (Green for Zubac) “clearly helped” tonight, and that the Clippers were “better defensively”. He was right. The Warriors’ 113 mark was the best of the series, and the Clippers hung in tough with the Warriors’ starting unit in the 1st and 3rd quarters, which is also a first for this series. While Green only scored 6 points on 1-2 shooting, his defense on KD and in switching on the perimeter was a huge boon, and the spacing he provided offensively was invaluable. Really, he probably should have played more than 22 minutes (the Clippers were a +9) in them, instead of Trez or Gallo. He’s been the Clippers’ steadiest player this series, and while that explains why they’re down 3-1, it also says a lot about how he’s played. He should be re-signed by the Clips this summer if at all possible.
- Jerome gets good minutes: Twitter was baffled when Jerome Robinson checked in late in the 1st quarter, and even more consternated when he remained in the game in the 2nd. But Jerome provided a huge boost to the Clippers, coming up with a couple steals and scoring seven points in just a few minutes, including a very nice corner three and runner off the glass. He looked comfortable on the NBA court for the first time in months. Doc said after the game that he put Jerome in because “if he’s open, he’s going to shoot it”, and while Jerome actually did pass up a couple looks, he looked very composed. Additionally, his defense was quite solid.
- Bright future: The Clippers might be down 3-1 heading to Oracle, but their future has never looked brighter. Wilson Chandler said it well when asked about the impact of the playoffs on the rookies “It’s amazing. Next year, they’ll come back more polished, more confident…. That will be huge also when you have big free agents looking at teams”. Shamet, Shai, and Jerome have all had their struggles this season, and this series, but have played well in tough moments, and it’s a wonderful sign for both those players as individuals as well as the Clippers’ organization. Hopefully Wilson is right, and free agents are taking notice.
The Clippers’ next game (and potentially last of this glorious 2018-2019 season) will be on Wednesday at Oracle. It could also be Ralph Lawler’s final game calling the Clippers (by the way, happy birthday Ralph!), and it should be appointment viewing for all Clippers’ fans, regardless of the probable result. Hopefully the Clippers put on a good show.