It looked like a low-pressure gig when C.J. Wilcox checked into the game with nearly five minutes left.
Then the job description changed Saturday night at Staples Center. Improbably so.
Wilcox found the ball in his hands with the Clippers somehow down by only three points in the final seconds. He had already hit two of the four three-pointers Clippers reserves made in a 94-second stretch to wipe out most of what had been a 16-point deficit with less than two minutes to play.
The ending was not the stuff of dreams. Wilcox rushed his shot, double-pumping a heave from 25 feet. The ball fell short of the rim and the Warriors prevailed, 115-112, in a game that somehow nearly unraveled completely for the defending NBA champions.
"I jumped in the air," Wilcox said, "was going to make a pass but couldn't make the pass so I tried to throw something up."
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers quickly pointed out afterward that failed execution by his third-stringers was not the reason his team lost. The Clippers could not match Golden State's cutting, ball movement or shot-making in falling to 0-3 against the Warriors this season.
"They played way better throughout the game," Rivers said. "They trusted so much more offensively. . . . I thought it was a horrible offensive night that created a horrible defensive night. I thought we were impatient, I thought we stood around far more than usual. I can't wait to see the isos we had over and over again. That's just not the way I like to play and I don't think that's a very effective way for our team to play."
Klay Thompson scored 32 points and Stephen Curry had 23 for the Warriors, who avoided their first back-to-back losses of the season after sustaining a 32-point drubbing in Portland on Friday night.
Jamal Crawford scored 25 points off the bench for the Clippers, including a four-point play and an implausible scoop shot inside the free-throw line on which he was fouled. But almost every Clippers run was offset by a turnover that led to an easy basket for the Warriors.
"We wanted to win the game, in my opinion, so badly that we could not win the game," Rivers said. "We were in the way of ourselves a lot."
The Clippers were already down by 11 points when Jeff Green made his debut with the team midway through the first quarter. He didn't make a great first impression, getting beaten on defense a few times, committing three turnovers and finishing with five points on two-for-seven shooting.
The Clippers didn't seem ready to concede anything even though it would be easy for the tenor of the rivalry to go from respect to resignation. Asked if the Warriors were the better team, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who finished with 21 rebounds and 16 points, looked around the interview room for 10 seconds without answering before taking another question.
Wilcox had checked in for Paul with 4:57 left after Paul sustained a mild left thigh bruise that is not expected to force him to miss any games. The Clippers were down by 16 points but started to force turnovers and make three-pointers.
They were down by only three with 4.6 seconds left when Golden State's Andre Iguodala forced an inbounds pass that deflected into Wilcox's hands. Rivers had decided to leave the outcome in the hands of his reserves after they had forged the comeback.
"I was shocked," Wilcox said. "But it was very cool for him to do that. I love playing in games like that. It's tough when you're out of rhythm and you just get thrown in, but that's the business and you have to stay ready."
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