Nobody said this was going to be easy.
In fact, as soon as Andrew Bogut cracked a rib, a good many of us — yeah, I'm looking at you, reader, don't try to deny it, look in the mirror damn you! .. but not me of course, total faith* — thought the task at hand was so far away from easy that it was closer on the spectrum to impossible.
* I totally picked the Warriors in 7, and I have proof if you want to challenge it, though I may have been ridiculing my own homerness, so let's move on before you call me a hipster.
So, it should come as no surprise that our margin for error is pre-tty slim. The ball has to bounce just right in order for the Warriors to take these games. Hell, the ball's gotta roll right to us and we've gotta pick it up and make beautiful swish noises with that fine spherical instrument, and we have to that early and often. I'm pretty sure I just described Game 4.
Game 5? The ball kinda bounced right up into our nether regions like in an old episode of America's Funniest Home Videos. Yes, we got back up and shook off that weird abdominal pain, and no, Bob Sagat wasn't present (I don't actually know that, he may have been in the stands), but when you take a groin shot, it takes a moment to regain your bearings.
Today's groin shot came in the form of early foul trouble to Draymond Green, also known as Quite Possibly The Second Best Player On The Team, At Least This Week. That happened, and you almost felt a palpable, "Welp, so I guess, like, back to the drawing board?" in their game. Suddenly, guys like Marreese Speights who shouldn't even be playing are instead getting first quarter minutes against one of the more formidable front lines in the Association. Pair that with foul trouble to David Lee, which itself led to an extended Jermaine O'Neal/Speights pairing (and which, always and forever, inevitably leads to the ultimate temptation for Coach Mark Jackson — isolation ball with their 17-year veteran center) and the whole offensive game plan just sputtered in its attempt to produce in the way you want it to. Specifically: getting open shots for Stephen Curry.
I will say this early: I am not trying to make excuses for Curry here. And that's hard for me to do, seeing as how I tend to think of Curry like this:
If Steph had been imprisoned by an evil sorcerer prior to this game, I wouldn't be surprised. He didn't look himself early on, and whether that was because of the discombobulating effect of early foul trouble to an already-depleted front court, or because of the Sterling debacle, or because the Clippers did their homework and corralled him right into the mistake pen, I don't know. It was probably a combination of all of those things, because they were all in attendance tonight.
I don't have time to rewatch any tape, so this is somewhat anecdotal, but my feeling is that: A) the Warriors didn't begin their high pick and roll action high enough with DeAndre Jordan's man to take him out of the play defensively; B) they didn't do a good enough job of putting the release valve player in a good position to receive the escape pass and initiate a play that would force the Clippers to scramble in recovery; and C) the Clippers did a marvelous job of knowing which angles Curry expected that release man to be available at, and completely shut down those plays with flailing hands and tertiary help. They also forced Curry into drives that put him into further peril. In basketball parlance, "peril" is defined as "triple team".
Also, Curry was mugged on off-ball screens all night long. Absolutely man-handled. But let's move on.
In the end, the story is turnovers. The Warriors gave up 22 points off of turnovers, many of them early, and almost all of them coming from Stephen Curry miscues and poor decisions. Sure, his teammates and coaching staff weren't making his life much easier, and when he did get shots up, he hit them with accuracy. But eight turnovers is just too many, and they fueled a Lob City attack that was difficult to overcome.
Looking at the other end of the court, well, the story is still in large part turnovers. Yeah, the Clips ended up with only one less than the Warriors, but it was the manner of turnovers that was a factor — in that the Warriors, in small ball configuration, need to generate fast break opportunities off of steals. And they needed to get that going early tonight. They didn't — nor did they find many other opportunities for early offense, choosing instead to hold the line instead of advancing on a Clippers defense that did a good job of getting back into position.
The other elephant in the room is of course almost the size of an actual elephant. DeAndre Jordan looked like the yeti out there. And he might have smelled like the yeti, since nobody on the Warriors seemed to want to keep a body on him. Jordan repeatedly got open under the basket for clean, untouched dunks, usually after a few passes that forced defensive rotations which for some reason didn't include making sure there was a man watching the giant dunk-monster. That whole goal of error-free basketball is not compatible with giving up 25 pts/18 rebs/4 blks/8-10 shooting/17 FTAs to DeAndre Jordan.
Too many mistakes. Too many examples of dunderheadism. Not enough game planning and not enough in-game adjustments to the realities of the present (read: getting smashed on by a dunk-monster). A lack of energy, a lack of clearly defined goals set up for execution. Not enough Andrew Bogut.
AND YET, the Warriors hovered around a five point deficit for much of the game, even stealing some lead points in the third, however briefly (ended by a Chris Paul response-dagger; he should have dropped a Mutombo finger wag after that one). If the Dubs had miraculously pulled a win out of the hat tonight, they probably wouldn't have deserved it, and I probably wouldn't have been shocked.
We have a really good team on our hands, folks. They are pretty special. Going up against a better team, yes. But just as the Warriors' margin for error is slim, the Clippers can't cruise through these games either, and as well-constructed as their team is, they shoot themselves in their own feet just as much as our guys do.
With that in mind, going into do-or-die Game 6, at Roaracle? Yep. Total faith.