Blame it on missed shots. Blame it on it being a game the Clippers didn’t have to win. Or blame it on the Donald Sterling distraction. But wherever you place the blame, the realization is this first-round playoff is now a best-of-three series.
The Golden State Warriors pretty easily dominated the Clippers, 118-97, at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Sunday afternoon. The best-of-seven series is now tied, 2-2. Game 5 will be Tuesday night at Staples Center. If the series goes to a deciding seventh game it will be Saturday at Staples.
There’s little doubt that the specter of Sterling’s alleged racist comments was a backdrop to this game but it’s doubtful it can explain a 17-point first quarter by Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who made his first five three-pointers.
Sterling did not attend the game. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is expected to rule by Tuesday on the authenticity of the recording that captured racist comments attributed to Sterling. If there is a punishment, it is expected to be either a fine or suspension or both.
Curry finished as the game’s leading scorer with 33 points on 10-for-20 shooting. He made 7 of 14 three-pointers. Andre Iguodala added 22 points for the Warriors.
The Warriors built a 23-point lead at one point and the Clippers were never able to get it closer than nine, which they did early in the fourth quarter.
The game was physical and hotly contested despite the lopsided score.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers basically conceded the game with about three minutes to play when he pulled Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Jamal Crawford, coming off the bench, was the Clippers' leading scorer with 26 points on 8-for-18 shooting. Griffin had 21 points.
One problem for the Clippers was the absence of Jordan, who didn’t score in 25 minutes of play. He had only six rebounds, only one of those on offense.
Can the Clippers leverage the homecourt into a 3-2 advantage Tuesday night? The answer awaits.
Warriors 89, Clippers 71 (end of third quarter)
The Clippers made a few forays into cutting the lead to single digits but could never get closer than 11 points and go into the final 12 minutes down by 18.
Too big a deficit? Probably but stranger things have happened.
The Clippers started the second half with a 6-0 run on a three-pointer by Chris Paul and a three-point play -- basket and free throw -- by Blake Griffin. Combine that with scoring the last five points of the second quarter and the Clippers had put together an 11-0 run to cut the lead to 12.
But the Warriors were able to extend the lead back to 17 points on a couple of Andre Iguodala baskets.
Fouls continued to be a subplot in this seeming runaway as Klay Thompson picked up his fifth with 3:48 to play in the third quarter that will likely put him on the bench until midway into the fourth quarter. Paul got his fourth with 3:16 left.
The Clippers did make a run late in the quarter with a couple of three-pointers by J.J. Redick, cutting the lead to 11 with 2:20 left. But the Warriors' 7-0 run to end the quarter took care of that.
Stephen Curry remained the game’s leading scorer with 26 points and teammates David Lee and Thompson each had 15.
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 21 points, while Jamal Crawford had 16.
Warriors 66, Clippers 48 (halftime)
Entering the second quarter, the Clippers had to feel fortunate to only be down 15 points. They needed to cut the lead to single digits by the time halftime rolled around.
Well that didn’t happen. In fact, the Warriors extended their lead to 18, taking a 66-48 advantage into the half.
The early part of the quarter was much more even than the first quarter. Jamal Crawford carried the Clippers for the first half of the second quarter, scoring eight straight Clippers points with a pair of three-pointers and two free throws. However, the Clippers couldn’t make a dent in the Warriors' lead.
One thing that could help the Clippers in the second half is the fact that Klay Thompson picked up his fourth foul with 4:06 left in the second quarter. There were actually a few players -- all Clippers -- whose participation in the second half could be jeopardized by foul trouble. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Crawford all have three fouls.
It could have been worse for the Clippers as they trailed by as many as 22 late in the quarter. But luckily, Stephen Curry, who scored 17 in the first quarter cooled off, adding only four points to that total in the second.
Crawford was the leading scorer for the Clippers with 16 points, with Blake Griffin adding 12.
David Lee and Thompson each added 13 points to Curry’s 21 for the Warriors.
Warriors 39, Clippers 24 (end of first quarter)
Stephen Curry couldn’t miss as the the Warriors’ All-Star point guard scored 17 points in the first nine minutes of the game and hit his first five three-point shots, igniting the home crowd.
Curry led the Warriors with those 17 points in the quarter, while guard Klay Thompson added eight. The Warriors shot a whopping 66.7% in the quarter.
All-Star power forward Blake Griffin led the Clippers with eight points.
The Warriors raced out to an 18-6 lead as the Clippers were sloppy with the ball early, with four turnovers in their first four minutes, and it cost them. The Clippers had eight turnovers in the quarter and they also seemed completely unfocused on their defensive rotations.
Warriors Coach Mark Jackson changed his starting lineup and added young power forward Draymond Green to the frontcourt for extra speed to guard Griffin and sat veteran center Jermaine O’Neal.
Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul got into early foul trouble as he picked up his second personal at the six minute mark. Clippers center D’Andre Jordan also had two personals in the quarter.
The Clippers came out to the court wearing their warmup jerseys inside out so the word “Clippers” couldn’t be seen and as a group tossed their warmups into a pile at the center of the court. It was an obvious statement against the alleged racist comments by Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
A fan at the arena in Oakland held up a sign that read: “NO ROOM 4 RACISM”.
As controversy swirls around the team, and world, regarding alleged racist remarks made by owner Donald Sterling, the Clippers have a chance this afternoon to take control of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.
Coaches Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mark Jackson of the Warriors had to address the comments attributed to Sterling before the game. What each must do now is try to get their players to focus on the task at hand: Game 4 at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
The Clippers lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1, after a 98-96 victory in Game 3 on Friday night in Oakland. A victory today would give the Clippers an opportunity to end the series in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
"This is a distraction," Rivers said about the racist comments purported to be made by Sterling. "And so my job is to try to lead them the best way that I know how and the best way I know how is to try to get together and unite them to play and to play well. But it is a distraction, there's no doubt about that."
The Clippers had a 45-minute team meeting Saturday, mostly to talk about Sterling. One player told the group they had worked too hard to get to this point, that they played the game for each other and not for Sterling.