The Warriors are the kids in class who’ve already locked up A+ grades, but choose to complete the extra credit assignment anyway. Once you think you’ve seen them prove everything they possibly can during this regular season, they go to an entirely different level. Tonight’s 110-106 win over the Clippers — the Warriors’ 61st win of the season — was the latest example.
There was no logical reason for the Warriors to push for a victory at Staples Center.
Doc Rivers says he understands Warriors resting Green because “they didn’t want to take the risk of going 2-2 with their regular guys.”
— J.A. Adande (@jadande) April 1, 2015
Hmmm … no logical reason, perhaps. “This game is really important to them. It’s more important to them than it is to us,” Steve Kerr told a TNT sideline reporter before the second quarter started. What he said probably annoyed the network he used to work for as a broadcaster, but it was 100% true as far as the standings were concerned. The Warriors’ magic number to clinch the best record in the NBA was four, and since they hold the tiebreaker over the Hawks it was actually three to gain home court advantage through the Finals, and they clinched the top seed in the Western Conference a few days ago. Meanwhile, the Clippers are in a position where they could easily be seeded anywhere from sixth to second in the West.
So the Clips came out and dominated the first quarter. That was partially because the Warriors missed several easy midrange jumpers and shots close to the basket, but Blake Griffin was able to go anywhere he wanted. The guy who guarded Griffin most often, David Lee, kept the Warriors afloat with 10 of their 18 first quarter points.
Then something clicked. Stephen Curry scored 11 second quarter points (3-for-3 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line) and nearly severed Chris Paul’s hamstring and groin muscles with a magical display of ball-handling near the baseline that Curry capped with a soft-as-tiramisu jumper. You can see four Vines of the ankle-breakage here, and I added some YouTube video of the play below.
It was a bad sign for the Clippers that they only took a 53-46 lead into halftime in a game where (1) the Warriors looked so bad early on, (2) they didn’t have their preferred guy to defend Griffin, who also happens to be an extremely valuable player in general, and (3) Klay Thompson was 1-for-8 (and the shot he made was an uncontested layup on a behind-the-head pass from Andrew Bogut) in the first half.
Golden State didn’t match their recent third quarter standard and absolutely dominate the Clippers, but their backcourt got loose. Curry and Thompson combined for 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the third quarter, with Klay scoring 13 of his 22 second half points on a variety of catch-and-shoot jumpers, leaners, and a flat-footed three-pointer from the left wing that was kind of ludicrous but totally believable just the same.
In the second half, what should’ve been an easy Clippers victory became a back-and-forth affair in which the Warriors had a small lead for most of the fourth quarter. And for all the talk about how the Warriors haven’t had much experience in close games, they held onto their four-point lead with ease.
— Mo Speights had eight of his 13 points in the second half, including this dunk and monster truck-style knockdown of Paul, who despite scoring 27 points and assisting on nine baskets had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
— The cherry on Paul’s crap sundae: he couldn’t corral an inbound pass with under 10 seconds left, which caused a backcourt violation.
— Bogut’s stat sheet was relatively quiet (six points, nine rebounds, six personal fouls), but his defensive captainship was outstanding. He’s a quarterback in more ways than one, directing players on one end, then throwing beautiful fullcourt-length passes with pinpoint accuracy and outstanding touch (the one tonight to Lee was so good).
— Some interesting stuff occurred with flagrant fouls in this game. Blake Griffin was called for a “common foul” early on when he jumped on Harrison Barnes as if he wanted a piggyback ride. It was the correct call — Griffin dropped his arms down toward Barnes on the play, but he didn’t hurt him. It was more of a flamboyant foul than a flagrant foul, if anything.
— Lee grabbed and wrapped up Griffin later in the game, and Griffin bumped Lee with his right shoulder afterward (in hopes of getting Lee to retaliate, no doubt). That foul was rightly called a common foul, which the Clippers’ PA announcer deemed “hard.”
— The Clippers probably complained a bit after the game (and during) about the foul called on Matt Barnes that sent Andre Iguodala to the line for three free throws. Barnes’ feet were pretty close to being exactly where Iguodala’s were going to land, which is a no-no. It was amazing that Iguodala made all three foul shots.
— The plus/minus statistic didn’t look so hot after this game. Harrison Barnes led the Warriors at +14 on a night when he went 0-for-7 and couldn’t get anything done against J.J. Redick. Barnes finished with one point, seven rebounds and two assists.
— In the end, this win was yet another reason to vote for Curry as this season’s MVP. The Warriors looked dead after that first quarter (there were a few questions about what the team’s extended stay in Los Angeles might’ve had to do with their lethargic and discombobulated start), and Curry’s second quarter kept the Warriors in it. His moves against Paul woke up the bench, and perhaps Thompson as well. Curry scored 27 points on 15 shot attempts and made all seven of his free throws, including two with 11 seconds left with some fans at Staples chanting “M-V-P.”
— How can the Clippers feel like title contenders after a game like this? Yes, Jamal Crawford is of vital importance to their future plans and he wasn’t available. But this was a home game in which Griffin and Paul combined for 67 and the rest of the Clippers couldn’t do enough to keep a Warriors squad that didn’t need to win from emerging victorious. The Warriors are going to be a much crisper team with a fiercer defensive presence if/when they face the Clippers in the playoffs. If that rivalry matchup indeed gets boosted by one more postseason series, those games will be completely different. But the results will almost certainly be the same.
— The Warriors have now won 10 in a row. Kerr is going to keep resting rotation players — including Curry and Thompson — but the Quest for 69 wins is still alive!