LOS ANGELES, CA-The Golden State Warriors have their identity. Smallball rule their world. Smallball is what has helped the Warriors to make three straight NBA Finals appearances. Smallball guided the Warriors to win two of the last three titles. They are the reigning NBA champs. The Los Angeles Clippers are still trying to find what their makeup is going to be this season.
With the departure of the ball-dominant Chris Paul era now behind them, the Clippers have a different feel to them this season. They have a different starting lineup and a more versatile roster. What that adds up to be-offensively and defensively-remains as a work in progress.
Newcomer Danilo Gallinari is a no-question scoring upgrade at the small forward position to what the Clippers have had in the past few years. Patrick Beverly, as he has illustrated in games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons, has shown he is every bit the first-team NBA All-Defense member that he is.
Through the first four games of the NBA regular season, everything seemed to have clicked for Blake Griffin and his teammates as they jumped out of the gate to a 4-0 start. That fast start has been temporarily halted with a two-game losing skid thanks to defeats to the Pistons and now the Warriors. The Clippers played strong enough defense to hold the Pistons to just 33 percent shooting from the field.
Against Golden State, the Clippers couldn’t find the correct solution defensively to clip the Warriors from having their best game of the season. The Clippers had lost 10 games straight to the Warriors before they ran out on the basketball court at Staples Center Monday night to play their Western Conference Pacific Division rivals.
The Warriors played their best game of the young NBA season to make sure their winning streak against the Clippers stayed intact. By the end of the third quarter, Golden State had already eclipsed the century mark on their way to posting a 141-113 win against the Clippers, making it 11 victories in a row for the Warriors against Los Angeles.
“[The Warriors] do a great job of moving the ball, but we knew that going into the game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “It’s funny, it’s rare when you look at the box score and have 113 points offensively and think, ‘we didn’t play good offense tonight.’ I thought it was night and day watching the difference in the movement tonight. I thought we tried to win the game on our own. That happens, but we didn’t trust the pass tonight. Defensively, I thought our offense deflated us in some ways and defensively they had a field day.”
After dropping a decision on their home floor to the Pistons, who also snagged a victory against the Clippers, the Warriors got their tempo flow going early with a 34-point first quarter. Golden State continued their running ways with a 40-point second quarter explosion that gave them 74 points by the time they went back into the locker room for their halftime break.
The Clippers played pretty good basketball, but not the otherworldly kind of hoops show needed to slow down the Warriors, scoring 28 points in the first quarter and 29 points in the second period. Their last two quarters were just as even, with Clippers managing to put up 29 and 27 points, respectively. The Warriors, dictating the pace of the game from tip-off, had a little bit more in the gas tank than the Clippers.
Golden State controlled the game using their patented pass the ball philosophy. This is classic Warriors basketball. Steve Kerr’s team don’t waste a lot of time dribbling, concentrating on getting the basketball out of their hands as soon as they get it.
As a result, Golden State produced 37 assists against the Clippers. The Clippers managed only to generate 21 assists. The Warriors also beat the Clippers in another key area: rebounding. As a team, Golden State recorded 46 rebounds to the Clippers’ 35.
“You have to have great focus,” Rivers said. “You have to have it for 48 minutes because they can make a run at any point in the game. [Golden State is] just good, but I don’t think they get enough credit defensively. It’s amazing, whenever you talk about Golden State, all of us, we only talk about their offense, and I think it’s their defense that sets them apart.”
This was the Clippers first big test of the season. With three more games left to play against the Warriors, the Clippers get an incomplete grade on this assignment. For the second game in a row, Griffin was taken off his game with the Warriors smothering him with double-team play all night.
As it was, Gallinari (team-high 19 points) and Lou Williams (17 points) kept the Clippers afloat offensively with their scoring output. Kevin Durant had a quiet, ho-hum 19-point performance for Golden State. The mercurial Stephen Curry, who made 7 of his 11 three-point shot attempts, led the Warriors’ scoring assault with 31 points.