The game’s best highlight was the Warriors in a nutshell.
Already leading by three touchdowns in the third quarter, the Warriors’ dizzying ball movement made the Clippers, well, dizzy. Klay Thompson dumped the ball into the post, then caught a pass on a cut before kicking it out to Draymond Green, who drove before bouncing a no-look pass to Zaza Paculia, who finally kicked it out to Kevin Durant for a wide-open three.
That added up to five passes in six seconds, which means it likely took you longer to read that last sentence than it did for the Warriors to complete the play. Durant made the three — Stephen Curry already had his hands in the air as it arced toward the net — and it was all a not-so-needed reminder of how irrationally good the Warriors are at playing basketball with one another.
But the Warriors (19-3) were mostly not the Warriors in a nutshell in their 115-98 win over the Clippers (16-7) on Wednesday night. They made just seven of their 30 three-point attempts, good for a 23.3% clip. Curry bricked all eight of his tries from beyond the arc. Durant shot five for 17, which added up to his lowest single-game shooting percentage of the season. They also allowed the Clippers to grab 17 offensive rebounds, which is five more than teams have averaged against them this season.
Yet the Clippers could not climb through the window of opportunity — or even find it. Instead of taking advantage of the rare Warriors “off night,” the Clippers committed more turnovers (14) than they forced (11), received just 41 total points from their starting lineup, were called for three technical fouls and gave up 58 points in the paint.
Rivers also mentioned turnovers, specifically the nine the Clippers committed in the first quarter, as a reason for the Warriors’ win. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said his team “didn’t get much going offensively,” but did say they did a great job of taking care of the ball and played top-notch defense.
Kerr then wrapped up his assessment of the game with an ominous message.
“Tonight was a workman-like effort and that’s what it takes,” he said. “We know we can play better offensively and we will.”
He is certainly right, as the Warriors are an offensive juggernaut and still scored 115 points without shooting the ball well. They did assist on 32 of their 42 field goals, becoming the first team to finish with 30 or more assists against the Clippers this season, and their unrelenting ball movement was another key difference in the game.
It was the fifth time this season the Warriors shot worse than 30% from three. Those five games include all three of their losses — to the Lakers, Spurs and Rockets — a six-point win over the lowly Suns and now a 17-point win over the Clippers.
And the Clippers, who have been considered part of the small handful of teams that could challenge the Warriors this season, never put themselves in a position to win on Sunday.
“At the end of the day to win a championship you’re going to have to go through them,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said after the loss. “I guess if you want to take a positive away from this experience, this isn’t the playoffs.”
Even before then, the Clippers will face the Warriors three more times in the regular season. A lopsided December loss has little bearing on whether the Clippers could compete with the Warriors down the road. But it did paint a foreboding picture: The Warriors were hardly their shot-canning selves, and the Clippers still could not keep up.