The Golden State Warriors' 109-105 win over the L.A. Clippers today managed to have a winning blend of everything that has made this team so frustrating during the season and everything that made people so optimistic in the preseason.
Ultimately, what matters most is that the Warriors accomplished the first goal of any road team in a playoff series: they took one of the first two games of the series to steal home court advantage.
They did so on the strength of an absolutely outstanding third quarter performance in which they took advantage of foul trouble for Blake Griffin to build a game-high 11-point lead that they were able to hold on to for a dramatic win to open their 2014 playoff campaign.
There was so much there to focus on good and bad that we could parse every single little thing, but for now let's begin with the good: the Warriors had a third quarter that few teams in the league are capable of matching.
Key stat: Warriors shot 70% in the third quarter
Yes, it's hard to to match what the Warriors did in the third quarter on any sort of even semi-regular basis, but that was the vision that some of us might have had for this unit when this season began: Stephen Curry nice balancing his role as a distributor and scorer with 4 points and 3 assists, Klay Thompson going 2-for-2 from beyond the arc to force the defense to make difficult decisions, and David Lee capitalizing on the threat of the Splash Brothers from deep to score 10 points off of isos with Griffin and perfectly timed cuts to the basket.
It's not merely that they were sharing the ball, but the combination of that with great spacing and well-timed reads of the defense. That third quarter explosion was enough to help them withstand the Clippers' fourth quarter run and put them in position to get a huge road win to begin the series.
The Clippers held a lead in the fourth quarter and lost today...They were 33-0 during the regular season when holding a lead during the 4th— GSWStats (@gswstats) April 20, 2014
We can't ignore the role that foul trouble for both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul had on this game - the Clippers offense just seemed to fall apart without them off the floor and the team was +9 either of them was on the floor - but that goes both ways: the Warriors came into the game without Andrew Bogut and found themselves without both Andre Iguodala and David Lee due to foul trouble.
Both teams needed players to step up and the Warriors just got more from their reserves than the Clippers did for theirs.
The Warriors also got 22, 7 and 5 from Thompson and 20, 13 and 3 from Lee (we'll come back to the turnovers later after we have a little time to celebrate this victory). Yet gaudy numbers aside, one player seemed to stand out most when the Warriors made their big push at the end of the third quarter.
Warrior Wonder: Draymond Green has a team-high +17 plus/minus
There were a number of standouts in today's game, but since I've been a fan of Draymond Green since the moment he was drafted, I'm going to start there. In fact, I think I could just reprise what I wrote about him for the last game I recapped (with minor edits as appropriate):
Let this sink in for a moment: Draymond Green - a second round pick who was supposedly too small, too slow, and just not good enough to be drafted ahead of players who had "upside" - was
a +27 in the Warriors 50th wina team-high +17 in the Warriors' 25th road win of the 2013-14 season overall...Draymond Green, who has constantly been doubted his entire basketball career, had 20 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks in the game that got the Warriors back to 50 wins for the first time in 20 years.a well-rounded 7 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks to help the Warriors win the first game in a series that almost nobody nationally gave the Warriors a chance to win.
Green is exactly the type of player who, for the most part, just wasn't here during the lean years - while swinging for the fences to get the next big thing, it's players like Green who are overlooked. Good teams have players like Green to fill in the blanks and get things headed in the right direction when they start to go awry.
Ok, so it didn't have exactly the same effect, but you probably get the point: Green is a vital part of this team's success.
As an addendum, it should come as little surprise that Green was in the game when the Warriors went on their 12-1 run across the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter to build their game-high 11-point lead. Green's defensive versatility was invaluable with his ability to guard both Chris Paul on the perimeter and Blake Griffin in the post in the fourth - with Green and Thompson hounding Paul throughout, the Warriors had the star point guard visibly rattled for most of the game.
Green just wins ball games for you in ways that don't have a neat box score category attached to them but end up helping him put together stat lines that are hard to ignore nonetheless, for their diversity if nothing else.
Sorry Draymond: you're no longer allowed to come out of the game.— Nate P (@NateP_SBN) April 19, 2014