How 'bout that Christmas spirit, am I right? Last night's game was JUST like sitting down in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of eggnog, sharing stories of yore with loved ones, coming together like you only do on Christma—NOPE THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED.
Instead we witnessed bedlam. Just utter chaos. The game was choppy, sloppy, and helter skelter BEFORE the proverbial feces hit the fan, and then we STILL had a crazy ending that defied all logic and expectations. I mean Christ, what a bananas game.
That last prayer by Jamal Crawford that had a chance to go in, and nobody would have been shocked if it had. The play before, where Chris Paul’s layup was blocked out of bounds from behind like Klay Thompson, all while Kent Bazemore was somehow pulling crunchtime duty and almost successfully drawing a charge on Paul. The play before THAT, with Andre Iguodala missing two free throws that would have put the game out of reach! And then before THAT, when Paul just inexplicably missed a gimme layup that would have tied the game!!! I mean c’mon guys, don’t you know I just consumed a massive Christmas dinner and eggnogaritas and wine and I just want to relax and enjoy a laugher?
I should have known that wasn’t in the cards. This was a Warriors-Clippers game, after all. Never a casual viewing experience, those. Especially the way this Warriors team has been playing for the past month, this was destined to be a scrape-claw sort of game if we had any designs on winning. And that’s what happened — poor shooting off of bad shots due to a sometimes stagnating and predictable offense, relying heavily on offensive boards and scrappy possession-saves (like the two Andre Iguodala flying-out-of-bounds hustle plays), and hoping the three pointers start to fall, which just enough of them did.
The first quarter was rocky — enough so that the outcome was looking inevitably dire. The starters looked out of sync offensively, and the Clippers on the other end were just hitting defended shots. Still, the game was close until Andre Iguodala took a breather. Not coincidentally, the lead quickly ballooned up to 13 with Andre out, compounded by Mark Jackson’s insistence to swap in his whole bench at once. They looked terrible as per usual, with Harrison Barnes failing to produce positive results as the featured offensive weapon, Marreese Speights having a Mo Speezy kinda night, and Toney Douglas’ best contribution being a halfcourt buzzer-beating four point play opportunity (in which he missed the free throw — of course).
The starters pulled them out of that funk in the second and third by getting into transition, grabbing offensive rebounds, and by getting solid offensive performances by Klay Thompson (phew) and David Lee (Double-Double Machine™). Stephen Curry had a poor shooting night, not finding many open shots against a defense totally geared toward shutting him down with defenders meeting him early and often. Steph did a good job of getting the ball to the roll man eventually, leading to a bunch of buckets for Lee and even Bogut. Curry finished the game with 11 assists to just two turnovers, which is especially commendable considering how Chris Paul and the help defense played him.
Then the fourth quarter happened. Griffin was ejected (get to that in a sec), the Clippers went four small, Jackson responded in kind and sat Bogut — which I’m usually terrified of, but was definitely the right call in this game — and they used Harrison Barnes in the one way he’s currently effective: in isolation mismatches against smaller defenders in non-traditional lineups. And despite going 1-7 in the quarter, his eight free throws were crucial in stabilizing the offense and taking the Clippers away from what they wanted to do defensively against the Warriors’ true offensive threats.
Then all the stuff at the end happened and the Warriors won. I'll tell you this: I'll take the win, count us fortunate, and look over my back for the vengeful acts of karma that might follow.
I dunno — maybe this was already a karma game, but for Blake Griffin and the Clippers. In trying to be fair and balanced and objective, Griffin may have gotten a raw deal last night. But maybe this is payback for the flops, or the myriad terrible Kia commercials he's in. Maybe he does some stuff on the court that we don't always see, because he certainly gets under guys' skin. I'll admit: I don't like his face, not one bit.
Regardless: in continuing my attempt at un-homerdom and objectivity, Draymond Green's cheap shot was pretty bush league, and don't pretend you wouldn't be appalled if, say, Matt Barnes were the guy who threw the arm. You’d be livid and calling him a punk. Whether it was deserved or not, it was a cheapy. I didn’t see how Griffin responded in getting the technical, and that’s on him to be sure, but I wish Green could keep it just a bit cleaner.
Or that he takes more cues from Andrew Bogut, who gets away with systematic, calculated murder every night. He’s the king of instigation. You know he’s in opponents’ ears all night long, and meanwhile he’s grabbing jerseys, doling out charlie horses, and consistently — like, on every play — gently shoving lumbars like a chiropractor. I can’t blame opponents for getting figuratively bent out of shape. But he’s smart and sly and gets away with it and good for him and, frankly, this team needs it. He brings a constant nastiness to the court that’s otherwise glaringly missing when he’s not on the court. And when he was in there tonight, against a one-teched Griffin, he instigated the hell out of that situation, and the Warriors were the beneficiaries. I would be yelling at my television screen if I were a fan of a different team, and as always, I’m forever thankful that’s not the case.
This was a tough one, but I’m giving the WW to Klay Thompson tonight. David Lee had a great game offensively, Bogut and Iguodala were critical defensively, but Klay brought both tonight. 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks, two steals, pretty good defense on Chris Paul for much of the night, and a couple game-winning defensive plays in the closing seconds. (He had the block on Paul, and also busted his tail to get out to contest Crawford’s final attempt.) Klay is maddeningly streaky, and it seems to affect everything he does. When he’s hitting his shots, he plays better defense, and plays smarter basketball all around. Here’s hoping he goes on a hot streak and helps us get back to blowing out teams.
By the way, mark your calendars: Next game against the Clippers is January 30 at Oracle, on TNT. You think the players on both teams are gonna get up for that one?