It’s not often that the Clippers encounter an opponent that’s been less successful than they have over the last decade, but the Golden State Warriors qualify.
Though neither team has posted a winning record in any of the last 10 seasons, the Clippers at least made the playoffs once.
And although they are still considered a long ways off, the Clippers seem a lot closer to returning after their first road victory, 94-86 over the winless Warriors on Saturday night before 16,385 in the Arena at Oakland.
Again short-handed with projected starters Kerry Kittles and Chris Kaman on the injured list, the Clippers never trailed for the second time in three games despite a season-high 20 turnovers, foul trouble, uncharacteristically poor free-throw shooting and a subpar performance by Elton Brand.
The Warriors made only 35.2% of their shots but rallied from a 23-point second-quarter deficit to at least keep the crowd interested until the end.
Corey Maggette, who said he played through back pain while missing 15 of 20 shots in Friday night’s loss at Portland, led the Clippers with 26 points, making nine of 16 shots. He said he had his back treated Saturday in the Bay Area.
“It worked wonders,” he said. “I felt like I had my bounce back a little bit and it felt good to hit some shots. If my back is feeling fine, I’ll be all right, I’ll be able to attack the basket a lot more.”
Bobby Simmons made eight of 11 and scored 22.
Brand, his right hand taped to stabilize a bruised right index finger, struggled with his shooting, taking a number of shots left-handed.
He had 13 points and seven rebounds but missed 12 of 18 shots.
Still, the Clippers won for the 10th time in their last 13 games at Oakland, their big early lead too much for the cold-shooting Warriors to overcome.
“I thought our guys did a nice job of bouncing back from last night’s game, particularly in the first half,” Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy said. “The first half was played very well by us.”
The Clippers, whose halftime lead was 51-31, were 10-32 outside Staples Center last season, including a loss in Japan in which they were designated the home team. And they didn’t start much better on the road this season, losing Friday at Portland, 94-81, as Trail Blazer center Theo Ratliff blocked nine shots.
“We need to defend better,” Dunleavy said before the game, addressing the Clippers’ road woes. “We need to execute better, obviously. Off of [Friday] night’s game, I think the game was taken away from us by Ratliff’s presence.
“The reality is that we did some very good things and were open. We executed very well early on. The five blocked shots he took away [in the first quarter] were all layups; they would have been 10 points. It was an experience for some of our guys who had never been there before. You’ve got to learn.”
The Warriors already are reeling, four days into a new season, after losing Wednesday to the Trail Blazers and Friday to the Utah Jazz, both at home. When they were blown out by the Jazz, 102-80, new Coach Mike Montgomery, hired away from Stanford over the summer, questioned their intensity.
“For us to win,” Montgomery told reporters, “we’ve got to play with every ounce of energy and we’ve got to play together. That’s not a criticism.”
For the Clippers, it’s a truism.
Putting their Friday loss out of their mind, they came out more focused and made 12 of their first 15 shots against the Warriors.
They led, 31-15, at the end of a first quarter in which the Warriors made only 26.3% of their shots.