Here are five takeaways from the Golden State Warriors’ 109-105 victory over the Clippers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Saturday at Staples Center:
1. Andrew Bogut’s absence won’t doom the Warriors. All this talk about how Bogut’s rib injury would be a punch to the gut of Golden State was little more than wasted breath. Jermaine O’Neal and David Lee manned the middle just fine in Bogut’s absence, with Lee collecting 20 points and 13 rebounds and O’Neal resembling his old All-Star form (and to think he somehow couldn’t impress the Lakers during a summer workout in 2012) with 13 points and plenty of smart ball movement that helped shred the Clippers’ interior defense. The supposedly shorthanded Warriors outrebounded the Clippers, 48-42.
2. Missed free throws just might doom the Clippers. The Clippers left 12 points off the scoreboard by making 23 of 35 free throws (65.7%), considerably worse efficiency than their season average of 73%. And it wasn’t just usual suspect DeAndre Jordan who cost the team by making only three of eight free throws (including one of six before he made his last two). Chris Paul somehow missed two free throws that could have brought the Clippers to within one point with 11 seconds left and guards Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison each finished four of six (66.7%), well below Collison’s career accuracy of 86.1% and Crawford’s of 85.5%. The Warriors, by the way, made 18 of 25 free throws (72%).
3; Maybe the Clippers got all the weird possibilities out of their system. Blake Griffin fouled out in only 19 minutes. Paul missed a pair of free throws and lost a ball out of bounds in the final 20 seconds. Collison failed to catch a pass with two hands, losing the ball out of bounds, and later stepped on the sideline. Crawford missed nine of 11 shots, with one of his makes from halfcourt. Griffin missed a layup and a point-blank tip-in that could have given the Clippers the lead in the final minute. If the Clippers kept any of those unusual occurrences from happening, they probably would have won.
4. The Clippers’ bench must give it a bigger boost to win the series. Clippers reserve forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis was actually a 289-pound (conservatively speaking) ball of activity, forcing three steals, making three of four shots, hedging hard on screens and memorably pumping up the crowd after forcing a turnover. But that was about it for the highlights among the Clippers backups. Crawford probably should have stopped shooting once it became obvious his touch was way off besides the halfcourt buzzer-beater (did that come with a free giveaway from Chumash Casino?). Collison played with effort but made only two of nine shots and had the pair of crucial late turnovers. Danny Granger played for the first time in almost a month but struggled, making one of six shots. The only significant contributions of Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Hollins were that that they logged playing time. Collectively, the Clippers reserves were outscored, 32-26, by a Warriors bench that is not supposed to be a team strength.
5. Don’t get too carried away with the results of a Game 1. Anyone remember the first round last year? Golden State lost on the road at Denver and the Clippers won at home against Memphis. The Warriors also happened to go on to beat the Nuggets while the Clippers lost to the Grizzlies. Things can change quickly.