LOS ANGELES — With the Clippers down by three with 11 seconds left and the game’s fate still undecided, Chris Paul stepped to the charity stripe for two free throws.
As a 85.7 percent free-throw shooter and notable clutch performer, it was assumed Paul would make both freebies. Clank. He missed the first one. Clank again. He missed the second one.
It was that kind of day for the Clippers.
The Warriors landed the first haymaker, stealing Game 1 and home-court advantage with a 109-105 win. It was not without some controversy, though.
Blake Griffin picked up two fouls early and never recovered, fouling out with 16 points in 19 minutes. During the time he was on the floor, the Clippers outscored the Warriors by nine points. When he was off of it, however, the Clips were outscored by 13. Think that made a difference?
Head coach Doc Rivers speaks on the officiating in Game 1. WATCH VIDEO
"I don’t just go into a game prepared for Blake to be in foul trouble," coach Doc Rivers said. "But he was in foul trouble so you just have to adjust. Unfortunately for him, I thought that he was going to have a really good game. I thought that he was going to play well…You can’t waste fouls. I thought we fouled way too much."
Outside of a thrilling stretch in the third quarter and the intensity of the final few minutes, the game was undermined by foul calls. Moreover, the Clippers’ offense, which now relies more on Griffin as its focal point, stalled without the big man, and threw their playing rotation out of whack.
Still, the Clippers had their chances to win at the end, and uncharacteristically couldn’t capitalize.
"I thought we played hard and I thought we came to win the game, but there were a lot of times where we lost our trust in as far as what we were doing," Rivers said. "We made too many mistakes to win the game. When you do that, you lose the game."
Here are five takeaways from Game 1:
Blake Griffin drenches Warriors fan with water after fouling out of Game 1 READ MORE
It’s almost impossible to discuss this game without mentioning how tightly it was officiated. There were 51 fouls and 60 free throws. What was projected as an uptempo series turned into a slog. Neither team could find any rhythm, and multiple players on both sides had four or more fouls. Griffin and Andre Iguodala were both rendered ineffective and limited to 20 minutes or less before fouling out, which certainly affected the matchup.
A silver lining
For as slow and boring as Game 1 was at times, there were glimpses of what this series could be like when both teams get hot. A particularly exciting sequence in the third quarter featured Steph Curry and J.J. Redick knocking down 3-pointers like they were layups. Overall, the Clippers (10 3-pointers) and Warriors (11) were basically even from deep. The loss drops the Clippers to 34-2 when making nine or more 3s.
The Curry conundrum
Steph Curry is the best shooter in the world, which puts the Clippers’ defense in a dilemma. Often times, they decided to trap him in pick and rolls, forcing the ball out of his hands and to an open man. The Warriors made them pay by converting on their 4-on-3 opportunities at a high rate, finding spot-up shooters and big men under the rim. While the Clips’ game plan took Curry out of his element (he finished with 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting), it also gave up a lot of open shots. Ultimately, it was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
Mistakes haunt Clippers in Game 1 loss to Warriors READ MORE
Chris Paul’s nickname on Twitter is The Point God because he’s the best point guard in the world, and has a knack for coming through in the clutch and making big plays. However, he struggled in the final two minutes, missing his free throws, turning the ball over and forcing a layup that was blocked when he should’ve passed the ball. Paul accepted the blame after the loss and vowed to play better in Game 2, but it was uncommon to see him look so mortal.
The Warriors’ group of perimeter players are all giant, and the Clippers oddly countered by going small in the backcourt for long stretches. It didn’t work. Klay Thompson (21 points, 5 assists) easily shot over the top of Paul and Collison, and the wings combined to grab six of the team’s 15 offensive rebounds — including Draymond Green’s monster offensive rebound at the end. The Clippers will likely need to adjust by playing Matt Barnes and Danny Granger more.