The door had cracked open for the Clippers to perhaps finally defeat the Golden State Warriors.
But the Clippers failed to step through their small sliver of access, dropping a 133-120 game to the injury-plagued Warriors on Thursday night at Staples Center.
The Warriors won by 46 points five days ago in Oakland, but very little changed except that the Clippers didn’t give in despite going down by 21 points in the fourth quarter.
The Clippers have lost nine consecutive games to the Warriors, with L.A.’s defense usually the main issue.
But the real truth is that none of these games have been close this season, the Clippers having lost the first three by an average of 25.3 points. The 144-98 humiliation last Saturday night at Oracle Arena was the worst.
“I just thought they performed at a much higher level than us,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “It wasn’t even close tonight.”
Blake Griffin tried to pull the Clippers along with him, his 31 points a season high. Griffin, in his fourth game back after missing the previous 18 while recovering from right knee surgery, also had eight rebounds.
But with 6:34 left and the Clippers down 15 points, Griffin was pulled for the rest of the night after having played 30 minutes.
“I thought Blake came with great energy tonight,” Rivers said. “I really did.”
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 29 points and 11 assists. Kevin Durant nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 26 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Klay Thompson scored 21 points, making a three-pointer from the corner in the final minutes to stifle a late Clippers threat.
And then there was the damage the Warriors did to the Clippers’ defense.
The Clippers saw the Warriors make 52.5% of their shots, 41.2% from three-point range.
The Warriors, who improved to 43-7, were down two starters in All-Star forward Draymond Green (bruised left shoulder) and center Zaza Pachulia (right shoulder).
The Clippers were missing their own All-Star in Chris Paul (left thumb surgery), and that has been a big hole L.A. understandably has been unable to fill.
That was never more evident than when the Clippers turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter, leading to 10 first-quarter points for the Warriors. The Clippers had 15 turnovers for the game.
“I thought our turnovers were deflating,” Rivers said. “It looked like a replay of the last time we played them here.”
Warriors guard Stephen Curry looks for a foul call after scoring on a layup against the Clippers during the second half.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford knocks the ball from Warriors guard Andre Iguodala during second-half play.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Warriors forward Kevin Durant is fouled by Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, right, after driving down the lane against guard Raymond Felton (2) during the second half.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford blocks a shot by Warriors guard Klay Thompson during the second half action.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers forward Blake Griffin falls onto Coach Doc Rivers as he saves a ball from going out of bounds during the second half.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers guard Austin Rivers loses control of the ball while driving against the Warriors during the first half.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers forward Blake Griffin reacts after dunking against Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first half.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Warriors forward Kevin Durant shoots over Clippers forward Blake Griffin during first-half action.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
And there was DeAndre Jordan losing his composure in the first quarter, getting assessed a technical foul.
Still, the Clippers remained in striking distance of the Warriors in the first 24 minutes behind the play of Redick and Griffin.
Redick had seven of his 13 first-half points in the second quarter. Griffin produced 10 of his 16 first-half points in the first quarter.
The highlight of the first half was delivered by Griffin. He had a flying right-handed dunk in which he placed his left hand on the neck of Kevon Looney before throwing down the nasty slam.
Looney, the former UCLA Bruin, fell to the court as Griffin flew by to the delight of the fans. But in the end, it was the Warriors celebrating again.
“We have to get better as a team. That’s a team over there,” said Jordan, nodding his head toward the Warriors’ locker room. “It’s that simple.”
Does he believe they can get better?
“I hope so,” Jordan said. “If not, your [rear] don’t need to be here. I’m being honest. If you don’t believe we can be better, then this is not the place for you.”