The Clippers gained back the home-court advantage in their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night with a 98-96 victory at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
The win gives the Clippers a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Oakland.
It should have been easier, given an 18-point lead in the third quarter, but the Clippers averted a last second shot by Stephen Curry to gain the win.
In the end, the keys to the Clippers' win were DeAndre Jorda,n who had 14 points with an outstanding 22 rebounds. He also had five blocked shots. Blake Griffin, despite being quiet in the third quarter, was the leading scorer with 32 points. He did struggle a lot at the free-throw line, going two for nine. Griffin was 15-for-25 shooting from the field.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak at Oracle for the Clippers and was only their third win in 18 games at the venue.
The Clippers had an 18-point lead with 4:24 to play but the Warriors kept chipping away to make it close.
That’s when Chris Paul’s presence showed up. He fed Griffin for a two, then Paul scored a two and a three to give the Clippers an eight-point lead with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors were able to close to within three points with 49 seconds left, but Griffin was fouled with 26 seconds to play and made one of two. The Warriors came back and Curry made a three-pointer to make it a one-point Clippers lead, 97-96.
Paul was fouled but made only the second free throw, setting up the final shot by the Warriors.
Paul finished with 15 points, J.J. Redick had 14 and Jamal Crawford added 13.
Curry led the Warriors with 15 points.
Clippers 75, Warriors 64 (end of third quarter)
It’s not to say that winning a Game 3 is important but last season 14 of the 15 teams that won that game went on to win the series. So, the Clippers had to take some solace in taking a 75-64 lead into the final quarter.
With the Clippers taking a three-point lead into the second half, you would have thought that the Warriors would have figured out that stopping Blake Griffin would be the big adjustment they needed to make at halftime.
Apparently not. Griffin scored the Clippers' first 10 points of the third quarter to give them a 10-point lead, 56-44, with 9:08 left in the quarter. The only flaw in Griffin’s game was his free-throw shooting, making only one of five to that point.
The Clippers went up by 14 points with 7:13 left on a DeAndre Jordan put-back basket and then went up by two more, 63-47, just 39 seconds later on a J.J. Redick jumper. The Clippers were in the midst of a 17-3 run over two quarters.
Jordan was coming up big for the Clippers, with 14 points, 21 rebounds and four blocked shots after three quarters.
With the quarter half over and the Clippers with a big lead the game started to get a bit chippy. Draymond Green was assessed a flagrant one for a foul on Griffin, who continued to struggle at the line, missing both shots, making him one for seven.
Things started to go the Warriors' way when Chris Paul was benched when he picked up his fourth foul with 4:47 left in the quarter. The Warriors were in the midst of a 7-0 run closing the lead to 11 on a Green basket with 3:52 to play.
The Warriors were on a good run but Jamal Crawford made three well-timed baskets to keep the Clippers comfortably ahead by 11 when the quarter ended.
Clippers 46, Warriors 43 (halftime)
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers started the second quarter with his second unit for about four minutes and they certainly held serve. In fact, they lengthened the lead to six before the Warriors closed it back to two.
Neither team was able to put together a big run in the quarter but the Clippers had to be happy with being on top 46-43 at halftime on the road at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
The struggles of the Warriors can be shown in two statistics. They were 1 for 12 in three-point shots. And All-Star guard Stephen Curry had scored only four points. He was one for five from the field.
And the stats that stood out for the Clippers were DeAndre Jordan scoring 10 points with 13 rebounds and two blocked shots. Blake Griffin remained a key factor for the Clippers with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
The Clippers took an eight-point lead, their biggest of the game to that point, with 2:57 to play on a J.J. Redick basket although the Warriors quickly responded with a basket by Draymond Green.
The Warriors made a short run near the end of the quarter with a two by Curry and a three by Klay Thompson to cut the lead to four, 46-42, with 58 seconds to play.
Curry made a free throw after a Chris Paul technical to cut the lead to three, which is where it remained for the final seconds.
In 24 minutes we’ll know if the Clippers can keep the advantage and win their first road playoff game in its last seven tries.
Clippers 24, Warriors 21 (end of first quarter)
The early lead the Clippers were able to take in the first two games was not to be Thursday night in Oakland. But, then again, they had to be happy with a small lead in the overly loud Oracle Arena.
Neither team was able to establish a big run early. Blake Griffin picked up his first foul about three minutes into the game. It initially appeared as if the Warriors were going to go to David Lee on offense trying to get Griffin in more foul trouble but then seemed to abandon that strategy.
But, still the Clippers played strong basketball and neutralized the crowd with a 24-21 lead. One area the Clippers did slip a lot was at the free-throw line, where they were only two for six. They shot better than 90% in Game 2.
With a little more than six minutes to play there was a sequence where J.J. Redick missed a three-pointer and then DeAndre Jordan missed three straight put-backs. As he was about to put up his fourth, Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant foul against Andre Igoudala. The referees reviewed the play and the Clippers escaped since it was ruled only a flagrant one, allowing Barnes to stay in the game.
The Clippers were able to come back and take their first lead of the game, 14-13, with 4:21 to play on a Redick jumper but the Warriors went on a 6-0 run to reclaim the lead, 19-14.
Jamal Crawford, playing with a strained left calf, hit his first shot for a three and closed the Clippers' deficit to two points. Griffin followed with a basket and thescore was tied, 19-19, with 2:32 left in the quarter. It was the start of a 10-0 Clippers run that ended with a Crawford three-pointer.
Jordan Crawford of the Warriors then hit the final basket of the quarter to cut the Clippers' lead to three.
Griffin and Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with six points. Lee and Jermaine O’Neal led the Warriors with six points each.
With the start of Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the Clippers and Golden State Warriors minutes away, fans have to wonder which Clippers team will show up Thursday night in Oakland.
Will it be the team that got into foul trouble, missed free throws and generally gave the Warriors a gift of a road win in Game 1?
Or will it be the team that dominated and won by a franchise playoff-record 40 points in Game 2?
The best-of-seven series is tied, 1-1. Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
One thing for sure is the Clippers won’t have the always polite and occasionally robust encouragement they get at Staples Center. The Oracle Arena has been a problem for the visiting Clippers, having last won there on Dec. 25, 2011.
The Clippers have lost 15 of their last 17 games there and currently have a five-game regular-season losing streak in Oakland.
Another thing to worry about is the health of Chris Paul. He says he’s OK but he injured his hamstring in Game 1. He didn’t practice the last two days trying to get as much healing time as possible.
Paul against Warriors point guard Stephen Curry likely will be one of the key matchups that will determine the outcome. Curry scored 20 points in the third quarter in Game 2 but was almost invisible otherwise in Game 2.
And Blake Griffin will have to stay out of foul trouble like he did in Game 2. In Game 1 he spent more than half the game on the bench because of fouls.
The referees for Game 3 are Ken Mauer, Eric Lewis and Ed Malloy.
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