5 things: Clippers fall in opportunity to beat undefeated Warriors
Here are five takeaways from Thursday's game:
To beat the Warriors, you need to be at full strength. The Clippers had a built-in excuse with starting shooting guard J.J. Redick sitting out with back spasms. Redick is the team's third-most important piece offensively, and an underrated defender -- he's important. At the same time, the Clippers held two 23-point leads, and the Warriors were without a key cog of their own in Shaun Livingston. This was an inexcusable loss. The Dubs were inevitably going to make a run, and the Clippers did a decent job of weathering the storm at first. But the Warriors' small-ball lineup with Draymond Green at center proved too devastating for the Clips to stop down the stretch, and the Dubs eventually stole the game.
The Great Neutralizer
The Clippers are playing a more conservative style of pick-and-roll defense this season in which the big man -- usually DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin -- drops back near the free-throw line instead of 'showing' high and/or trapping the ball-handler. The downside is that, if the ball-handler is a deadeye shooter, he has enough room to get a quick 3-pointer off while his defender navigates the screen. The Clips tried defending Stephen Curry this way a couple weeks ago and he torched them. They adjusted back to last season's coverage -- which has worked decently against Curry -- and, well, he torched them again. Go figure. There's simply no stopping him right now.
Holding his own
Before the game, Chris Paul went through a shooting workout focused on pull-up and spot-up 3-pointers. The extra reps clearly helped, as Paul came out of the gate on fire. He scored 18 points on perfect shooting: 7-for-7 from the field, 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, and 1-for-1 from the free-throw line. It was as if Curry had transferred his shooting powers to Paul. But Paul cooled down, scoring only five points in the second quarter, and 12 in the second half, finishing with 35 point for the game. For all the talk of how great Curry has been recently -- and rightfully so -- Paul showed he can still compete in his stratosphere.
Feed the beast
Similar to Paul, Blake Griffin enjoyed an impressive outing -- 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting -- against one of the league's best defenses. But Griffin also struggled in the second half, scoring only 9 points (3-of-8 shooting), despite resting for only four minutes. The Warriors' ability to defend Griffin with Green in single coverage, and have capable defenders like Andre Iguodala or Harrison Barnes switch onto him at a moment's notice, made it tough for the Clippers to go to him late in the fourth. Still, the Clips need to stop ignoring Griffin at the end of games -- he's their best player, and should be involved on every possession.
There were several problems over the final few minutes. The Clippers' offense gummed up. Griffin didn't get the ball enough. Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce struggled defending Golden State's wings. The Warriors' small-ball lineup is basically unguardable. And the Clippers still haven't figured out their go-to crunch-time lineup. But, most of all, the Clippers seemed to lack trust, which has been a trend in the games they've blown leads. "[Golden State] were more together down the stretch, in the same sense of how we were early on," Griffin said. "But, in the end, they trusted their game plan, saw it all the way through and executed."
The Clippers (6-5) now head up the coast to face the Portland Trail Blazers (4-9) at the Moda Center on Friday night. Our coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. on Prime Ticket.