So much for a statement game. The Clippers weren't going to catch Golden State in the standings, with the Warriors having already clinched the best record in the West. Still, the Clippers went into Tuesday's game at Staples Center hoping to even the season series against their bitter rivals. But the Warriors showed why they have the best road record (27-11) in the league in a 110-106 win. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. The Clippers were outplayed in the fourth quarter: Much like a title fight, the outcome often depends on the final round. But Golden State was the aggressor, scoring nine straight points to open the final quarter, erasing the Clippers' six-point lead. The Clippers were also sloppy with ball, with six turnovers (two each by Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers) and they made only three of 13 field goals. No surprise that the Warriors outscored the Clippers, 28-18, in the final 12 minutes.
2. The bench has been a season-long disappointment: Anyone checking box scores in close games this season has probably noticed that the Clippers' reserves usually come up short. Check out the plus/minuses for the Clippers' key reserves last night: Austin Rivers -2; Glen Davis -7; Spencer Hawes -6; Hedo Turkoglu -6. Or these numbers: the Warriors' bench generated 34 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, while Doc Rivers' reserves had 12 points, 5 rebounds and no assists.
3. Against elite teams the Clippers' starters must play almost perfect games: The Clippers' starting five are a match for any playoff team, but their weak bench forces their starters to play big minutes and it probably accounted for the Clippers' tired legs at the end of last night's game. The Warriors' starters averaged only 31 minutes last night, versus 40.4 minutes for the Clippers' starters.
4. Blake Griffin is back to All-Star form: This was his ninth game, and his best, since returning to the lineup after missing five weeks because of surgery to clear up a staph infection in his elbow. Griffin had 40 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and made all eight of his free-throws. He is also shooting a career-best 72.6% from the free-throw line this season.