LOS ANGELES, CA-The Golden State Warriors kept their feet on the gas pedal against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round hookup at Staples Center. The end result turned out to be unfavorable for the hometown Clippers, who saw Kevin Durant go rogue and score 38 points to lead Golden State to a 135-102 road win.
“High energy, high focus,” said Golden State guard Stephen Curry, who finished the game with a quiet 21 points. “Tried to set the tone early in the first six minutes. That’s what we did.”
The victory by the Warriors gave them a 2-1 advantage in their best-of-seven first round series against the Clippers. Considering the way the two teams have played each other throughout the regular season, the outcome would have been predicated of more of a tightly contested game. The Warriors defeated the Clippers three out of the four times they played each other during the regular season.
Two of those losses were blowouts. But the Warriors’ rout of the Clippers in the first home playoff game was somewhat determined by the outcome of Game 2 when Golden State choked off a 31-point second half lead finding themselves in a 1-1 series instead of being up 2-0. Taking a cue from Durant, who scored 12 in the Warriors’ 41-point first quarter outburst, Golden State played like the back-to-back NBA champs that they are.
“I think Coach (Steve) Kerr came up for some plays for me at the start of the game. I think doing that kind of set the tone. Just putting pressure on the defense through post-ups, through dribble handoffs,” Durant said. “I think that was something we talked about this morning, just consciously with the way they play, just coming off a lot of Andrew Bogut screens, sitting in the post. If they double, guys are moving. We was just more patient tonight, to sum it up.”
When you’re a team that has played in four straight NBA Finals like the Warriors have done, not too much is going to rattle you, even a 31-point blown lead in the postseason. At least for one game, it was like that. So with the chess game switching back to Golden State with the homecourt advantage, the onus now falls on coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers to do something about it if they have plans on extending the series to a Game 6.
“You got to keep punching,” Rivers said after the game. “That’s what I told them in the locker room. You’re going to get hit. We got hit tonight. We didn’t throw any punches back. But that’s what you have to do. We win Sunday, it’s a tied series. Again, it’s a series. Thank God this is not college.”
The outcome of Game 4 will determine that fate for both the Clippers and Warriors. For that to happen for the Clippers, Los Angeles is going to need better output from Danilo Gallinari. Period. Instead of playing like a nine-year veteran, Gallinari played small within the moment in Game 3, coming up with just nine points on 2-for-13 shooting from the field. That’s just not going to get it done for the Clippers to have a remote chance of defeating this juggernaut called the Golden State Warriors.
Gallinari, though, is not the only player that need to figure things out quickly. As a team, the Clippers converted only 37 percent of their shots from the field. The Clippers played timid on the offensive end as Golden State ramped up their defensive efforts, harassing guys all over the court. With that being the case, the Clippers decided to go small ball and jack up a whole bunch of 3-pointers with very little success.
For the game, the Clippers made just 7 of 32 shots from beyond the arc.
“Top to bottom, [the Warriors] came to play,” said Clippers guard Patrick Beverley. “They shot early and they [had second-chance points]. When they can’t make shots, they got the 50/50 balls and they grabbed offensive rebounds. They put us is a [bad situation] and we give them a lot of credit. But this is just one game. We’ll be better next game.”