OAKLAND, Calif. — Doc Rivers was absolutely right. What the Clippers did Thursday night was survive — just barely.
They didn’t shoot particularly well, didn’t make free throws, turned the ball over too much and allowed the Golden State Warriors to climb back into a game that should have been easier than it was.
But they still won.
The Clippers made shots when it counted. They got defensive stops when they needed them. They beat the Warriors 98-96 in a raucous Oracle Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series — and they took back home-court advantage.
"We did enough to win," Rivers, the Clippers coach, said. "I didn’t think we played great. We played good. But I thought a lot of guys gave great effort."
None more than Blake Griffin, who scored 32 points, and DeAndre Jordan, who tied a franchise playoff record with 22 rebounds and also blocked five shots.
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Then there was Chris Paul, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, drained two big shots in the final minutes and defended Stephen Curry’s potential game-winning 3-point shot with 4.4 seconds left.
"I knew who was going to get it," Paul said later. "I figured he was going to shoot it. I just tried to make him as uncomfortable as possible."
Now it’s the Warriors who are feeling uncomfortable, having lost the advantage they had after winning the opening game and losing on their home floor. But there are still at least two more games to play, possibly four if it goes to seven games.
And momentum can swing in any direction.
"You can say we have momentum now, but Game 4 they’e going to play for their lives," Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. "They’re going to give us their best shot. We have to be able to beat that."
It will take a better performance than the one they gave Thursday. They blew an 18-point lead, made just 10 of 23 free throws and missed repeated opportunities to hang on their double-digit lead.
In a place as noisy as Oracle, it doesn’t take much to blunt a team’s charge, but that’s what Golden State did.
"You knew they weren’t going to give up," Rivers said. "You knew they weren’t going away. They have so many shot-makers on their team."
Their primary scorers, Curry and Klay Thompson, were a dreadful 15 for 34 shooting and 5 for 19 from 3-point distance. But when they got hot together, they brought the Warriors back.
At the critical moments of the fourth, however, it seemed that every time Curry or Thompson made a shot, the Clippers got one of their own. And their defense, particularly Jordan, stepped up.
"We got stops when we needed them," Griffin said. "But we can’t let them back in the game like that."