I sat three rows behind the Golden State Warriors bench - next to members of the ownership group - as well as four feet away from Milwaukee Bucks players John Henson and (former Warrior) Epke Udoh and watched the Warriors as a fan.
Just talked to Joe Lacob, who says he is "very excited" about the new Mission Bay arena site.— Sam Sorkin (@samsportfan23) April 22, 2014
What I saw was the Clippers at their absolute best and the Warriors at arguably their worst. It was quite possibly the worst Warriors game I have ever seen in my life.
Put simply, the Warriors got absolutely eviscerated in Game 2. This was a beat-down of the highest order, what happens when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin actually play and dominate all facets of the game like they did. This game showcased a level the Clippers can reach, that Golden State - without center Andrew Bogut - simply cannot match.
First off, the Clippers have arguably two of the 10 best players in the NBA in Griffin and Paul. The Warriors, meanwhile, have just one consensus top-10 player in Stephen Curry, who has been taken out the flow of the game with traps and double teams during the series. Simple math: 2 > 1, and the Clippers' All-Star combination is capable of doing more on the court for themselves and their teammates than Curry, who is the only above-average playmaker the Warriors have. Doc Rivers has done everything he can in this series to deny Curry his greatest skill - unfathomable shooting ability, especially off the pick-and-roll - and through the first two games in Los Angeles it has worked brilliantly, especially in Game 2.
Second, the Clippers have the luxury of bringing Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Danny Granger - four starting-quality NBA players with important playoff experience - off their bench, and all four played key roles in blowing the game wide open in the second quarter. Crawford, Granger, and Hedo Turkoglu combined for seven key three-pointers, three more than the tally of the entire Warrior squad, that Monday night was lethargic in rotating out to shooters and slow to contest shots from either inside or outside the paint. Also, Griffin scored 21 points in the first half, eventually becoming the fourth player in the shot-clock era to finish with 35 (a playoff career-high, on 13-17 shooting and 9-10 from the line) in under 30 minutes of action in a playoff game.
Once again, the Warriors trailed early by double figures, but this time the refs weren't there to help them: Blake Griffin had zero fouls in the first quarter, and in fact the whole game. When Mark Jackson left Klay Thompson in with two fouls in the first quarter, I turned to the fans next to me and said, "If Klay gets his third foul, this game is as good as over." To that point in the game, Thompson had been the Warriors' best option both offensively with Curry taken out of the flow, and defensively as their primary defender on Paul. Thompson picked up his third foul moments later; Mark Jackson subbed in Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake, and neither could even do simple things like bring the ball up or execute an end-of-quarter play - turning the ball over play after play after play, resulting in an 11-point Los Angeles lead after one. Blake Griffin and the Cippers bench made sure that the game was over by halftime, stretching their lead to 26.
In the third quarter, Curry showcased a rare outburst of frustration towards the referees after he had gotten pummeled three consecutive times while finishing at the basket, yet did not receive a foul call. Throwing his famous mouthguard to the floor and jawing at the referee, Curry was called for a technical foul. It was his first technical foul (as reported by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News) since the infamous "Mole Game", Game 5 of the 2013 Warriors-Nuggets first round series.
Clippers, Warriors really don't like each other
The animosity level between the Clippers and Warriors only got higher after a heated Game 2.
Yet at the midway point of the third quarter with Golden State trailing by 30, Curry (who was inexplicably still in the game in a 30-POINT BLOWOUT) took it upon himself to get anything going offensively. He scored 20 of his 24 points in the third quarter, attacking the basket and making eight of his final nine shots. His offensive burst in that period would ultimately be the only bright spot during a game that the Warriors got thoroughly demolished in every single way possible.
Tensions boiled over for the Warriors as their deficit increased from 20 to 30 to 40 by the end of a long, long game. Jermaine O'Neal and Doc Rivers were each called for a technical foul after they exchanged choice words during the second quarter, an unfamiliar sight to behold. Curry, as mentioned above, picked up his first technical of the season after he was repeatedly smashed to the court in the third quarter. Jordan Crawford's fourth-quarter hip check on Darren Collison resulted in a flagrant foul, the first of the series; Marreese Speights and Glen Davis went nose-to-nose after the Clippers attempted nine threes in he fourth and went up by forty with under a minute remaining, causing the benches to clear.
As the series shifts to Oracle Arena for Games 3 and 4, the Warriors absolutely must find a way to get Curry cooking offensively when it matters, utilize the raucous home crowd to force Los Angeles into multiple turnovers, control and value the ball offensively, and stay out of foul trouble.
If the Warriors can do all of that, they have a fighting chance against a team clearly more talented, athletic, and polished offensively.
If not, well, I saw up close what happened Monday night.
For more on the series, check out our Warriors vs Clippers playoff series section.