The Clippers’ bench once again let them down, putting them into an insurmountable hole that kept them from beating an imminently beatable Warriors team on the road.
The Clippers started the game playing well on both ends. Their shots weren’t falling, but they were moving the ball on offense and getting the ball out of Steph’s hands on defense. The starters, once again, came to play and looked sharp. After a couple Harden threes, the Clippers led 18-17 at the 4:23 mark. Then, the bench came in. The Clippers’ offense bogged down, the Warriors began hitting threes, and an 11-2 run to close the period saw the Warriors gain a 31-24 lead.
The second quarter continued in the same fashion. Paul George was ice cold, the Warriors bench continued to score, and only a lucky break on a Kuminga three being a split second too late kept the Clippers from being down 16 within two minutes. Ty Lue kept the bench unit out there, and the Warriors’ lead did get to 16 at the 6:45 mark. The Clippers’ starters returned, and while they weren’t perfect, they held the Warriors to only 11 points the rest of the period (the Warriors did miss several open threes). The Clippers’ offense wasn’t much better, but it was enough to trim the lead to 61-50 at half.
The Clippers continued on a mission to start the 3rd. Zu was everywhere on defense, Kawhi got going on offense, and they were able to get the game all the way down to 64-60 after just three minutes. Things unraveled quickly, with a 7-0 Warriors run in 75 seconds based on Clippers’ sloppiness on both sides. The rest of the quarter saw the Clippers’ offense gt going again, but the Warriors get untracked as well. The Clippers couldn’t get much closer than 10, but nor could the Warriors break it open. At the end of the quarter, Ty Lue finally snapped and put in an insane Russ-Bones-Norm-Harden-Kawhi unit. Predictably, they couldn’t get any stops, but nor could they generate easy offense. Still, a Harden and-one got the Clippers to down just 86-77 going into the final period.
The Clippers continued with an odd Bones-Norm-Russ-PG-Theis lineup after the break, but after a poor defensive possession Mann came in for Bones. Klay Thompson took over for a stretch, scoring nine points and getting the Warriors out back ahead 99-86 at the 8:23 mark. After a Clippers timeout, a PG three and then Theis three brought it back to 7, forcing a Warriors timeout. The seesaw swung again, with the Warriors going up 11, just to roll back with a Zu and-one and Harden three getting it to 105-100. The Warriors came back, driven by Steph, with Russ playing over Mann. Then Mann came back, but Zu went to the bench, with Ty closing small. Unfortunately, nothing the Clippers did was able to get the game to within reach, and despite the close score, the Warrior won comfortably enough.
Bad PG: Paul George went 6-18 from the field for 15 points, and those numbers look better than he played, as two of those shots and five points came with the game out of reach. He did have 10 assists to 1 turnover, which is great, but his defense was nowhere near as sharp as it needed to be, and he settled for jumpers instead of attacking the Warriors at the rim. It was the second night of a back to back and fifth game in seven days, but it was still a disappointing effort.
Kobe Pulled: Kobe Brown played six minutes in the first half instead of PJ Tucker, logging a single rebound and missing a three (taken in garbage time) with a plus minus of -6. He then didn’t play in the rotation in the second half, with Ty going ultra-small instead. Kobe was bad defensively in that stretch, but going with the absolutely bananas four-guard (all negative defenders) lineup above is certainly no better. Hopefully he remains in the rotation going forward.
Rematch Saturday: The Clippers play these same Warriors again in two days. Hopefully they’re a bit fresher and have more legs under them, because the Warriors are not particularly good (they were so unimpressive in this one, the Clippers were just worse), and if the Clippers want to make the playoffs they’ll probably need to pass the Warriors in the standings. Losing two games to them would be a huge setback there.