It should not have been a surprise to see the Clippers’ reserves be a force during Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.
The Clippers had the foremost bench in the NBA this season and they showed why Saturday night.
They scored 65 points in a 121-104 loss in Oakland, the ninth most in a postseason game since 1985, and outscored the Warriors’ bench by 43.
The Clippers’ reserves averaged 53.2 points per game this season, the most in the NBA since the 1985-86 season.
“This bench has been amazing for us, and they did an amazing job yesterday, too,” starting forward Danilo Gallinari said. “So, we know that we can count on them.”
It is more than just Montrezl Harrell, who had 26 points, and Lou Williams, who had 25 — the first teammates to each score 25-plus points off the bench in a postseason game since bench statistics were first recorded in the 1970-71 season.
The solid play of JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler also has lifted the Clippers’ bench.
“You got two sixth man of the year candidates that probably will end up one and two in the voting,” coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s a pretty solid bench. And I think the guys around them, I think adding JaMychal and Garrett and all those guys, and Wilson … we had a great bench before the trade and they’re even better now. So, that tells you how good our bench is. We’re not going to change. Our bench is going to be good this series.”
Take care of the basketball. That will be the theme for Game 2 against the Warriors on Monday and the rest of the best-of-seven series.
The Clippers turned the ball over 19 times in Game 1, with the Warriors converting those into 22 points. The Warriors turned the ball over 21 times, resulting in 15 points for the Clippers.
“You can’t beat them turning the ball over,” Rivers said. “And to tell you how bad our offense was, they turned it over and we didn’t take advantage of it. Like, when we turned it over, they took advantage of it and to me that may have been the difference.”
Clippers exorcise ‘a demon’
When the Clippers’ bus pulled up to practice Sunday on the University of San Francisco campus, it brought back bad memories for Rivers.
The last time the Clippers practiced there was April 26, 2014, after then-owner Donald Sterling was exposed for making racially insensitive comments about African Americans.
The Clippers were getting ready to play Game 4 of a first-round series against the Warriors and were forced to answers questions about the comments from Sterling, who eventually was forced to sell the team to Steve Ballmer.
“I don’t know if I’m superstitious or not, but we’ve had other opportunities to come here and I’ve refused it,” Rivers said of War Memorial Gymnasium. “I just don’t like it. Today, we had no choice. We had either here or driving out to [Oracle Arena]. So, we took it. So, we’re exorcising a demon today, is what we’re doing.”