Can we just go ahead and pencil in a Clippers-Warriors playoff series? Please?— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) November 1, 2013
There has been some talk about whether the Golden State Warriors' game "travels" leading up to tonight's game and those who want to believe it doesn't will probably use tonight's loss to the L.A. Clippers as Exhibit A.
While you're free to read into this game however you want, the Warriors looked every bit like a team that was playing the back end of a back-to-back in the second game of the season after an emotionally charged home opener the night before.
There was a point in the third quarter when the game really seemed to be getting away from the Warriors and it seemed reasonable to wonder whether they could keep the proverbial wheels from falling off - unfortunately, I'm just not sure they were ever affixed that tightly.
The halftime stats told a story of a significant amount of self-inflicted damage. Turning the ball over as often as the Warriors did in the first half (11 turnovers) just isn't a recipe for success no matter who you're playing. Getting beat badly on the boards as well -L.A. Had an 11-6 edge on the offensive boards for a 15-2 edge in second chance points - certainly didn't help their cause. DeAndre Jordan had 8 of his offensive rebounds in the first half, including a few consecutive boards, and the Warriors bigs just couldn't seem to deal with his athleticism around the basket.
And yet the Warriors were still down just 13 points.
By limiting those second chance points in the second half (the Clippers had just 3 off of 5 offensive boards), the Warriors actually managed to win the second half 60-58. But they still just gave the Clippers way too many opportunities off turnovers.
Key statistic: 25 team turnovers for 28 Clippers points
Turnovers played a major role in preventing the Warriors from even getting start in the first quarter as the Warriors had eight, most of which were just careless. When playing the Lakers' suspect defense, it's a little bit easier to get away with being free and loose with the ball; when playing a team that puts up even a modicum of resistance, lazy passes are going to be picked off.
The Clippers certainly deserve credit for their defense on all of the Warriors offensive action, but a number of those turnovers were forced or lazy passes that were never going to get to their intended destination. Those are things that a team can clean up and aren't necessarily fatal flaws, but they were frustrating to watch after last night's performance nonetheless.
Key matchup: Stephen Curry's nine threes overshadowed by Chris Paul's 42 points
Stephen Curry really started to heat up in the second quarter, prompting even Reggie Miller to comment on how easy things looked. There just doesn't seem like there's much a defense can do to stop him off the dribble...unless he was turning the ball over. Some of Curry's 11 turnovers were just careless errors, mental mistakes of aggression that make it into the highlights when things are flowing as they were against the Lakers. But a good number of Curry's mistakes were a result of Chris Paul's hounding defense, which forced him to make uncomfortable decisions.
That's part of how Paul ultimately outplayed Curry, who had 38 points on the strength of 9-for-14 shooting and 9 assists. The other point was Paul's own 42 points on 12-for-20 shooting and 15 assists.
It's crazy that Steph Curry is having this game and is getting horribly out-played by CP3.— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) November 1, 2013
Paul made his fair share of mistakes as he seemed to got caught up in the dueling aspect of the game and got caught in the air aiming for the spectacular play instead of the simple play. But otherwise, he was just generally unstoppable as he got to almost wherever he wanted to on the court and scored in a number of different ways.
The Warriors did run a number of different guys at him in an effort to slow him down. Klay Thompson didn't take a shot until the 3:25 mark in the first quarter after dropping 38 on the L.A. Lakers last night and didn't make a field goal until around the five minute mark in the second quarter. But he played a crucial role for the team slowing Paul down at times in the second quarter. Andre Iguodala took his turns on Paul and used his length and instincts to try to slow Paul down as well. Perhaps the entirety of switching defenders ultimately did something to keep Paul from doing even more damage than he did. But there's still the defense he played on Curry and his ability to take almost complete control of the game when he's not scoring.
Other notes on the game:
- David Lee got off to a good start, scoring the Warriors first points of the game with a post-up on Griffin. Griffin came right back with a runner in the lane. Later he would throw an alley oop to Andre Iguodala. Defensively, David Lee was showing off his renewed commitment to defense again as he defended Griffin one on one. For a time, it looked like that would be the defining matchup of the game.
Yet by the second quarter, it looked like Griffin had already worn him down a bit. By the third quarter, Griffin was catching the ball with Lee pinned almost under the basket. And that had a major impact on the game: when Griffin is able to get easy buckets at the rim and Lee isn't putting up resistance on the defensive boards either, a team like the Clippers is given an edge that is difficult to overcome in the paint. As Coach Nick described in his breakdown of the Clippers' opening night loss to the Lakers, Griffin has some really awkward footwork around the basket and the fact that he didn't get an offensive rebound against the Warriors tonight is probably a concern. But ultimately the approach of having Lee guard him with single coverage didn't work for a full 48 minutes.
- I have to give Draymond Green props for guarding Blake Griffin as well as he did, even though he drew a somewhat questionable foul. It's matchups like thee that I like his versatility to give guys a rest in different spots. I enjoyed that, for the short time it lasted.
That little scuffle between Andrew Bogut and DeAndre Jordan wasn't really worth mention – I agree with Charles Barkley that Jordan was fully aware that his teammates would rush to his support and awaiting their arrival - until Roy Hibbert got involved.
Bogut n Jordan should stay between Bogut n Jordan. Didn't see any point guards run up.— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) November 1, 2013
But Jordan's 8 offensive rebounds in the first half – and 10 in the game – ultimately reflect that he got the better of Bogut in the post when the two were actually letting their performance on the court do the talking. Although Bogut looked good at times in the game, the Warriors didn't have an answer for an athlete like Jordan in the post tonight. I'm sure there are people out there now saying he wasn't worth his contract... to which I'd respond that I have no interest in imagining what a game like tonight's would've been like without Bogut on the floor.
- Once again, Jackson put four bench players in the game at once (with Klay Thompson) and once again the offense came to a grinding halt at that point over the final few minutes of the first quarter. We've covered this before, multiple times, but it was probably a bit more prominent tonight against a good team: it will be hard to keep up with the league's elite teams with a lineup on the floor that either can't score or takes a few minutes to get warm before making a field goal (Speights' heave at the first quarter buzzer notwithstanding).
Doesn't matter if the buzzer already sounded. When Marreese Speights hits a half-court shot, it should count. For sixteen points.— SB Nation (@sbnation) November 1, 2013
- While last night's game was an example of the Warriors' versatility in that Klay Thompson carried the team while stars Curry and Iguodala had quiet nights, Curry stepped up the scoring tonight and it was evident early on that Iguodala was going to be anything but quiet early on tonight, making an impact in a number of ways. But most importantly, Iguodala just didn't stop when things started to get really bleak in the third and his defensive efforts were a major part of what helped the team get within 5 points with 6:16 left in the third quarter. In fact, we should be amazed the Warriors were even within striking distance at all with everything else that went wrong. So I really wanted to give him Warrior Wonder honors at that point - he really did do enough to deserve it on any normal night.
Not to be ignored, Andre Iguodala has his 1st double-double as a Warrior (14 points/11 assists), his 79th career double-double— GSWStats (@gswstats) November 1, 2013
Ultimately, it's just hard not to pick style over substance on a night like tonight. For all that went wrong for Curry and the Warriors, the duel with Paul itself was exciting to watch as a basketball fan even if the game was extremely hard to watch as a more partisan fan. When Curry is in a zone like that, there's always room for hope that a win is within reach and on night's like tonight that ends up going a long way.