The Clippers started the 1st quarter phenomenally well. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was aggressive attacking offensively, Pat Beverley was everywhere defensively, and the ball was zipping around the court. Unfortunately, a couple poor offensive possessions and failure to box out Draymond Green for offensive rebounds kept the Warriors in it. Shai kept doing his thing, and the Clippers held a narrow 21-17 lead about six minutes into the game. At this point, two things happened. First, the bench started entering for the Clippers. Second, Kevin Durant decided he wouldn’t miss shots any more. The Warriors swarmed Lou Williams on the defensive end, and were able to get numerous stops, leading to mismatches in transition. Durant got easy dunks and pullup jumpers, giving the Warriors the lead. The Clippers settled down a bit late, but Durant kept cooking, and the Warriors picked apart the Clippers’ defense in the halfcourt, getting several alley-oop dunks. As a result, the Warriors led 35-31 entering the 2nd quarter.
Unfortunately, the Clippers started inauspiciously, with a horrible Lou turnover leading to a ridiculous Durant and-one the other way, with Temple draped all over them. This would be the theme for the 2nd quarter: Clippers’ sloppiness offensively, and Durant eating them alive. The Warriors slowly edged their lead into double digits, and the Clippers seemingly had no answers. When Lou was taken out for Shai, the Clippers looked better, with stouter defense and far greater ball movement. However, missed open threes by JaMychal Green and Landry Shamet, and a couple bad post up shots and turnovers by Gallo, had the Clippers on the rope again. Lou and Trez returned, but it made no difference, as Durant continued to hit shots, and the Clippers continued to misfire. They trailed the Warriors 72-53 at halftime, with no momentum.
The Clippers’ starting lineup, refreshed and re-energized, again started things off with a bang. Shai, the youngest player on the court, looked at times like the best, creating all sorts of looks off the dribble for himself and his teammates. His unflappable attitude and calmness under fire was honestly incredible to watch, and he spearheaded a 14-4 run that cut the Warriors lead to 12. KD got going again, hitting two threes, but Gallo responded, nailing a triple and an and-one to keep the Clippers in it. Unfortunately, trouble started once more when the bench came in, as turnovers mounted and the Warriors’ lead grew. Jerome Robinson checked in for the first time, with Doc clearly searching for answers. Alas, there were none, and the Clippers trailed 102-78 entering the 4th.
Like the roaches that they are, the Clippers refused to die. Shai checked back in, and immediately hit a midrange jumper, while Jerome cashed in on a three of his own. The Clippers went super small, with only one big man and four guards, and the increased ball-handling and spacing pushed them on another mini-run to cut it to 14. Durant answered, and the lead swung to 19. The Clippers slowly chipped away again, getting it down to 13 with around 6 minutes left. This was the closest it would get. Lou and Gallo missed open threes, Steph buried one at the other end, and the game slowly slipped away. Doc finally put in his reserves with a few minutes to go to give Gallo, Lou, Beverley, and Trez the ovations they so deserved, and time finally ran out on the Clippers’ season, as they fell 129-110.
The fight never died: The incredible fight and will to win that powered the Clippers all season long, getting them to 48 wins and a Game 6 with the Golden State Warriors, did not forsake them in their final hour. The Clippers scratched, and fought, and battled the entire evening, never letting go even in the 4th quarter when things looked bleak. No matter how many threes Kevin Durant hit, or how many stops Draymond Green got, the Clippers kept coming. They lost tonight, but it certainly was not for lack of effort or heart. What a team. What a marvelous team.
Pat Beverley astounds: Patrick Beverley was the heart and soul of this team all season. So it stands to reason that, with their backs against the wall, he had one of the finest performances of his career, putting together an 11 points, 14 rebound, 7 assist, 1 steal, and 2 block game in 41 long minutes, all while playing aggressive, active defense. His rebounding the past two games was the stuff of legend, his long arms snatching the basketball from the air before any of the longer, taller players around him could get it. On offense, he probed and kicked out and attacked again, and made most of the few shots he took. He probably could have taken more shots, but it’s a small quibble on a night where he gave every last ounce of energy he had to the Clippers. If the Clippers don’t bring him back, fans will riot, and I don’t really blame them.
The future is now: If Pat Beverley was this team’s heart, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was its shining light. And it shone exceedingly bright tonight, as the rookie point guard, not even legal to drink in the United States, put forth one of the best games of his career thus far. He scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting, pulled down 5 rebounds, and dished 6 assists to no turnovers, all while playing solid, fundamental defense. The Clippers, in fact, were a plus 6 in his 34 minutes – meaning they got outscored by 25 in the minutes he didn’t play. He hit threes, got to the free throw line, scored around the basket, and canned his favorite midrange jumpers. There was never fear in his eyes the entire series, and he played magnificently tonight. The Clippers have a star on their hands. The only question is how great he’s going to be.
Lou struggles: Sadly, Lou Williams, who had been so spectacular for the Clippers all season, and who dazzled the Warriors in Games 2 and 5, did not have it going tonight. He finished 3-21 from the field, and was a -28 in 27 minutes. The Warriors, to their credit, adjusted the pick and roll coverages tonight on Lou and Montrezl Harrell, and swarmed them right from the start of the game. Neither guy was able to get in a rhythm, and both were attacked defensively. Lou in particular was off, with several shots rattling in and out, and a bunch of looks that he’s hit all year failed to drop. It was a rough sendoff for the soon-to-be third-time Sixth Man of the Year, but that doesn’t overshadow what he’s done for this team. He’ll be back next year, and if the past two seasons are anything to go by, he’ll somehow be better than ever.
KD explodes: I don’t want to talk too much about the Warriors, but it must be said that Kevin Durant had himself a game. He scored 50 points on 15-26 shooting, and made buckets every time the Clippers went on a run. He was unstoppable the past four games of this series, and this run could cement him as truly one of the all-time great NBA players. Kudos to him.
Ralph’s last game: While it would have been great to send Ralph off with a win, in some ways, it’s perhaps better that the season really ended on his last game call, so the fans could send him off the way he deserved. This was such a typical Ralph game. No fanfare or gimmicks, nothing distracting. Just a regular game of beautifully called basketball. I’m happy the game was at least mostly competitive, so that Ralph had something to talk about, and he got excited for each and every push the Clippers made, right until the very end. When Steve Ballmer builds a new stadium, Ralph Lawler has to be the first name (or mic) to go into the rafters. He’s the true greatest Clipper of all time, and watching Clippers games will never be the same. Good luck to Ralph in his retirement, and we will have more on him for his Hall of Fame induction in September. Oh me oh my.