Here are five takeaways from the Clippers’ breathless 98-96 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Thursday night at Oracle Arena. The win gave the Clippers a 2-1 lead in the series:
1. Blake Griffin is on track to be the most valuable player of this series. The Clippers forward has 83 points in 91 minutes, even taking into account his Game 1 clunker in which he fouled out in only 19 minutes of play.
He is powerful, efficient and has turned his one perceived weakness -- jump shooting -- into a strength, repeatedly making big baskets to curb the Warriors’ furious comeback in Game 3.
Griffin’s 32-point effort -- on 15-of-25 shooting, no less -- made him the first Clipper to score 30 or more points in consecutive playoff games since Elton Brand did so in four consecutive games during the 2006 playoffs.
He has given the Clippers the full-fledged complement to Chris Paul that they need to become an NBA Finals contender.
2. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have gone from splish and splash to drip and drab. Golden State’s famed Splash Brothers duo has all but dried up in this series, struggling mightily with their outside shooting touch.
Thompson and Curry combined to make only five of 19 three-pointers in Game 3, 26.3% accuracy that is not going to win any games. Curry’s struggles have been particularly acute as he is only six of 21 (28.6%) from beyond the arc in the series.
As a team, the Warriors made only six of 31 three-pointers (19.4%) in Game 3, the team’s lowest shooting percentage in the playoffs since making only 18.8% of their shots from that distance on May 1, 1994, against Phoenix.
3. Considering the way DeAndre Jordan played, the NBA may want to re-tabulate the votes for defensive player of the year and most improved player. The Clippers center was everywhere his team needed him to be in Game 3, grabbing a franchise-playoff-record-tying 22 rebounds and blocking five shots.
He was the defensive catalyst who came up with some big stops and fittingly grabbed the rebound on Curry’s airballed three-pointer in the final seconds.
Jordan’s presence is every bit as important to the Clippers as those of Paul and Griffin.
4. Jamal Crawford might have started to get it going after a few uncharacteristic games. Crawford wasn’t much of a factor in the first two games of the series, scoring in single digits each game and making a combined two of eight three-pointers.
He was more productive in Game 3, scoring 13 points while making three of six three-pointers. He was also the only Clippers reserve to score in double figures, adding much-needed production.
5. The Clippers can’t assume a got-what-we-came-here-to-do mentality going into Game 4. This is essentially what happened to the Warriors after they won the series opener. They seemed a bit complacent and got walloped by 40 points in Game 2.
If the Clippers want to keep this series from going six or seven games, they will need to come out with the same fire they showed Thursday.
Griffin will need to be relentless around the basket, Paul will need to help his teammates keep their composure when the decibel levels become uncomfortable and Jordan must continue to make the Warriors reluctant to take a shot within five feet of him.
Otherwise, the Clippers will be guaranteed a return trip to the Bay Area for a Game 6 next week.