LOS ANGELES (AP) The Clippers insist they just weren’t themselves in losing their series opener. They chalk it up to being too amped, which led to mistakes on both ends.
Whoever those impostors might have been, the Golden State Warriors beat them 109-105 to take away home-court advantage.
Now comes the test for both young teams. The Clippers don’t have a history of playoff success, while the Warriors have had little since winning an NBA championship in 1975.
Since Chris Paul arrived in Los Angeles three years ago, the Clippers had never lost the opening game of a first-round series. Will they unravel or will they bounce back under first-year coach Doc Rivers?
”There’s a lot of things we can do better,” Rivers said Sunday. ”We had a lot of opportunities; we just didn’t capitalize on them. They did. They made all the big ones.”
The Warriors proved resilient in rallying from a 12-1 deficit to start Saturday’s game, and then withstood the Clippers’ fourth-quarter comeback that tied the game with 1 1/2 minutes left.
”We have to come into Game 2 with a chip on our shoulder or we’ll get blown out,” Warriors reserve Harrison Barnes said. ”It’s all mental at this point. We need to have that edge again.”
Here are five things to watch for in Game 2 on Monday night at Staples Center:
FOUL FEST: Will a different set of referees call the game as tightly for both sides as it was in Game 1? That’s when Blake Griffin fouled out in 19 minutes, Paul had five, Matt Barnes four and DeAndre Jordan three. For the Warriors, Andre Iguodala fouled out, while David Lee, Jermaine O’Neal and Klay Thompson had four apiece. ”I really didn’t anticipate the game to be called like that both ways,” Griffin said. ”The next game could be extremely physical. I just need to do a better job reading that situation. The first couple fouls you can kind of see how the referees are calling the game.”
AT THE POINT: The Warriors’ Stephen Curry had 14 points – 10 below his average – and seven turnovers in Game 1. He was just 2 of 6 from 3-point range. His teammates will try to get him more open looks while the Clippers double-team him again. ”I expect that kind of attack all series,” Curry said. ”I have to be patient with the ball and make the right read and look for the weak-side shooter, that’s how you attack a double team.” Paul, known as one of the best closers in the game, faltered down the stretch. His final 18 seconds went like this: lost the ball out of bounds, missed two free throws, earned a fifth foul and missed a 3-pointer. He scored 28 points, but had six turnovers. ”There’s no excuse for the mental errors we made,” Griffin said.
FREE POINTS: The Clippers missed 12 free throws, and for once it wasn’t all Jordan’s fault. The team’s worst free throw shooter was 3 of 8, but hit two key ones to pull Los Angeles within one in the final three minutes. Surprisingly, three of the Clippers’ best – Paul, Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison – combined to make just 11 of 18, which proved costly in their four-point loss. ”That’s huge,” Paul said. ”You make them, you don’t turn the ball over as much and you defend. Luckily, we get a chance to redeem ourselves.”
NO BOGUT, NO PROBLEM: The Warriors won’t have injured center Andrew Bogut again, but it wasn’t a problem in Game 1. They scored 48 points in the paint and owned a 25-16 edge in second-chance points. Perhaps some of that success was due to Griffin’s foul trouble, but the Warriors were still better on the boards. Lee and Draymond Green combined to grab nearly half of their 33 defensive boards. Lee also scored 20 points. ”Me being aggressive on the offensive end helps us against Blake; it makes him work harder at both ends of the floor,” Lee said. ”My goal is to take away his easy baskets, his dunks and his fast-break buckets because that gets him ignited and that gets them ignited.”
BETTER START: Warriors coach Mark Jackson was forced to burn two timeouts to get his team settled down after being stunned 12-1 to open the game. The Warriors don’t want to fall into another double-digit hole and spend the rest of the half digging out. ”They will come hard at us because they’re competitive, but we have to focus on the game plan and don’t freak out,” reserve Steve Blake said.