LOS ANGELES-Still perfect. At least for now, small ball is the rule in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors gave Los Angeles Clippers another lesson in perfection with a 23-point deficit comeback win to beat the hometown heroes with a 124-117 win at Staples Center. Steph Curry must be saying,” How do you like me now?”
Chris Paul, after seeing his 35-point scoring outburst amount to another defeat to Curry and the Warriors, must be thinking,” What do we need to do to beat these cats?”
Well, Paul did what did he needed to do to help the Clippers beat the Warriors in their second round match of the season. Coming out blazing hot, Paul scored 18 of his 35 points in the first quarter as the Clippers built a 41-25 advantage they held over the still unbeaten Warriors (13-0).
As we see now, no lead is safe with Curry and his Boys. The Warriors made that 23-point lead disappear like butter on toast.
More disturbing than losing that 23-point lead was the fact the Clippers held a 10-point advantage over the Warriors with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and still couldn’t close the deal. In the two meetings against the Warriors, this is the second time this has happened. Blowing fourth quarter, 10-point leads to your division (Pacific Division) rivals is not too cool.
It’s also an issue that needs to be fixed. Losing a fourth quarter lead has almost become a Clippers’ ritual as this was the downfall of the team against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals last season. Now it’s rearing its ugly head all over again. For three quarters, the Clippers looked like they would be the first team to take down Curry and his outside shooting friends this season.
For three quarters, the Clippers, especially Paul and Blake Griffin, looked pretty sharp. It was going to be a good night. It was all good until the fourth quarter kicked in. This is why Curry and the Warriors are the defending NBA champions. They’re fast, lethal from the outside and they can do all the intangibles to win-like play defense when it matters the most.
That’s something the Clippers failed to do in the fourth quarter. That’s where the game was won and lost. The Clippers forgot how to play defense in the final period, allowing Golden State to score 39 points in the fourth quarter to win going away. Well, I guess shooting 73 percent from the field, which the Warriors did in the fourth quarter, will get you quite a few points.
For brownie points, Golden State emphatically showed the Clippers how to finish a game, ending the contest with a 22-5 run. And for good measure, the Warriors outrebounded the Clippers in the game by an unacceptable margin of 44-35.
Today, the Warriors are feeling good about themselves. The Clippers, on the hand, are probably feeling ill after that fourth quarter meltdown. It’s one thing to lose a fourth quarter lead on the road in a hostile environment. It’s another thing when a team does it at home in front of their own fans, even though it seemed at least half of the building was rooting for the Warriors.
The ineptitude of the Clippers’ defense in that fourth quarter is surely regrettable. Again, for three quarters, the Clippers played the game right. The Clippers clearly outplayed the Warriors. What happened was that the Clippers simply ran out of gas at the end of the game. But it didn’t help matters for the Clippers to see center DeAndre Jordan’s presence in the game evaporate.
Jordan (10) was outrebounded by Curry, who added 11 boards to his game-high 40 points. There is going to be a lot of reaction and overreaction to this Clippers’ setback to the Warriors. It’s one game in a very long season. If this kind of performance occurred in the 72nd game on the Clippers’ schedule as opposed to the 12th game of the season, that would be more alarming.
This is a tough game to swallow for the Clippers and their fans. But coach Doc Rivers will get his team right. The fourth quarter lapse the Clippers had against the Warriors no doubt stings. Maybe that is the motivation the Clippers need to fully grasp winning a championship require playing excellent ball for four quarters, not three.