Rivers, Paul shoulder blame for Game 4 loss to Warriors
OAKLAND, Calif. — Whether they were distracted or disjointed or emotionally weary from the previous 24 hours of turmoil, the Clippers wouldn’t let on. They didn’t allow the surrounding controversy to bury them, but the Golden State Warriors did.
Coach Doc Rivers blamed himself. Chris Paul insisted it was on him. But here’s what really did it: Stephen Curry.
He was due for one of these games, and it happened at an opportune time. Curry was spot-on, scoring 33 points, making seven 3-pointers and lifting the Warriors back into their best-of-seven series against the Clippers with a 118-97 win Sunday at Oracle Arena.
It’s tied 2-2, with Game 5 set Tuesday night at Staples Center. But no one knows what to expect when the Clippers return home, not with so much uncertainty.
"We’re going home now," Rivers said. "Usually that would mean we’re going to our safe haven — and I don’t even know if that’s true."
How much his players were affected by the allegations regarding team owner Donald Sterling isnât known for sure. But they made a collective statement, taking off their warm-ups with the Clippers logo on front and putting them in a pile at midcourt before the game. They wore their red warm-up T-shirts inside out, and some players sported black wristbands. All wore black socks.
"I knew about it," Rivers said. "I didn’t voice my opinion. I wasn’t thrilled about it, to be honest."
The Clippers never found their footing, falling behind by 15 points in the first six minutes and giving up 39 first-quarter points. Curry drilled three consecutive 3-point baskets during that span, setting the pace of the game in motion.
"They came out and hit us in the mouth," forward Matt Barnes said. "You’ve got to give them credit."
At the same time, Rivers and Paul insisted on shouldering the blame themselves, rightly or wrongly.
"Whatever the distractions, I’ve got to do a better job getting them ready, and I just didn’t feel like I did the right stuff," Rivers said. "I didn’t do my job. I take that personally."
Said Paul, who defended Curry: "It’s all on me. I let him get loose early. I’ve got to be better defensively, I’ve got to be better offensively. This was on me."
The Clippers made a push at the start of the third quarter, closing to within 12 points twice, then got as close as nine, 96-87, in the fourth on Hedo Turkoglu’s three-point basket with 8 minutes, 3 seconds left.
But Harrison Barnes scored on a 15-footer, and Curry drove for a layup, getting it back to 13 points.
Jamal Crawford had 26 points off the bench, and Blake Griffin scored 21, but center DeAndre Jordan had no points and just six rebounds in 25 minutes. The Clippers made 19 turnovers and were outscored in fast-break points 27-8.
"There was a lot going on today," Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. "Unfortunately, besides all the peripheral stuff, we played a team that played a great basketball game. It was by far their best game all series, both sides of the ball, and it was tough."
Tough in so many respects. The Clippers still have home-court advantage, with two of the remaining three games at Staples if necessary, but they aren’t sure what to expect when the series resumes.
"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what it’s going to be like" for Game 5, Paul said. "Our fans have been amazing all season long, and obviously I hope it will be the same. You just never know.
"They’ve been amazing, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them."