The winners of five straight games, the Golden State Warriors played the last game of a mini two-game home stand on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, who they’d defeated by 16 points on Saturday in Los Angeles. But this result would be much different as the Clippers defeated the Warriors by 19 points on Wednesday night, winning 125 to 106.
The Warriors were not at full strength for this game, as Stephen Curry suffered a minor ankle sprain earlier on Wednesday and sat the game out. The Warriors were also without Klay Thompson, who was scheduled to receive rest during this game, as he’d played in every other game thus far this season.
Even without their All-Star backcourt, the Warriors seemed poised to take care of business against the Clippers, with Kevin Durant returning to action and the Clippers being severely short-handed.
But the Clippers rose to the occasion and, behind a career-high night by one player and impressive contributions from players only recently added to the team, and defeated the Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Clippers’ victory was their first win against the Warriors since Christmas Day 2014 and their first win in Oakland since Christmas Day 2011.
A career-night for Lou snaps the Clippers’ losing streak against the Warriors
I once had a teacher who said, “there are two kinds of people: people who eat the thing they don’t like first and people who wait and eat the thing they don’t like last.” Well, I’m definitely more of the former so... let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. Specifically, Lou Williams going absolutely nuts to end the Warriors twelve-game winning streak against the Clippers.
Williams was moved into the starting lineup with all the injuries that have befallen the Clippers. Blake Griffin missed this game while still dealing with the effects of the concussion he suffered on Saturday against the Warriors. Playing with the starters, Williams scored a career-high 50 points. More than half of those points came in the third quarter, in which he scored 27 points as the Clippers began to run away with the game.
There was more than one Williams scoring for the Clippers as rookie C.J. Williams scored 12 points, mostly in the first half as he left the game early in the third quarter with a nasty ankle sprain. In addition to the two Williams’, the Clippers got 22 points from Tyrone Wallace, returning to the Bay Area after playing his college basketball at Cal.
But the star of the night was Lou Williams and, after the game, he was all the Warriors wanted to talk about.
Steve Kerr on Lou Williams’ 50-point night and the team’s struggling win its defensive strategy on him pic.twitter.com/FLHOiC7koq— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) January 11, 2018
KD on Lou Williams: "He ordered a 50-piece McNuggets on us" pic.twitter.com/Qq75xIqBzj— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 11, 2018
On a seriously depleted roster, Williams was able to get hot enough and the other players, many of them fresh from the G-League, were able to produce just enough to give the Clippers the win.
Durant scores a season-high and reaches the 20,000 point milestone
After missing the last two games with a calf injury, Durant returned to the Warriors’ lineup, playing very well in the losing effort. Durant scored 40 points against the Clippers, a season-high for him that also tied his highest point total since joining the Warriors. Durant was remarkably efficient in Wednesday night’s game, shooting 78% from the field, including going six for seven from three-point range.
Durant also tallied four assists against the Clippers, with most of them coming in the first half, like these two plays where he found Zaza Pachulia and Jordan Bell, respectively, for the easy baskets.
But the most important part of Durant’s night wasn’t what he ended up with, but that he was able to score at least 25 points. Once he passed over the 25 point threshold on Wednesday, which he did late in the second quarter, Durant scored his 20,000th point.
KD putting dudes on ⛸ to get his 20K career point pic.twitter.com/9cozrszZkk— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) January 11, 2018
Once it was announced over the public address system at Oracle Arena, Warriors fans gave Durant an extended standing ovation to properly celebrate and congratulate him on reaching this impressive basketball milestone.
Extended standing O for Kevin Durant hitting the 20K mark pic.twitter.com/GfJzfC7uum— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 11, 2018
In the locker room at halftime, injured Warriors star Stephen Curry was there to congratulate Durant on the achievement.
Though his great performance and achieving this bit of basketball history came in a pretty rough loss, it was still great to see Durant achieve that and doing so as quickly as he has.
2nd youngest to 20,000 points... and he played a year in college pic.twitter.com/cFd6B8hJDJ— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) January 11, 2018
As the NBC Sports Bay Area Twitter account noted, Durant reached 20,000 points as quickly as some players who came straight from high school to the pros while Durant played a year in college. It puts Durant’s scoring accomplishments in a different light and makes them even more impressive than they already are.
The Warriors can’t make up for the Splash Brothers’ absence, both on offense or defense
With both Curry and Thompson out, the Warriors were needed to make up for a great deal of missing scoring. Unfortunately, outside of Durant, no other Warriors player had a good offensive night.
The most likely candidate to step up was Draymond Green. Not saddled with the responsibility of guarding Griffin, who did not play, Green could have taken that extra energy and channeled it into his offensive game. Instead, Green turned in one of his worst performances of the season, scoring seven points while shooting just 11% from the field.
Draymond has missed his first 5 shots, including 4 from 3— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) January 11, 2018
Another player who had a rough night when the Warriors needed him to play well and carry some of the offensive burden was Nick Young. Getting the start with Thompson out, Young scored just seven points and shot an abysmal 27% from the field (including going one for seven from three-point range). The Athletic’s Anthony Slater noted just how frustrating it was to see Young struggle in this moment when they really needed him to make a contribution.
Disappointing night for Nick Young. With Klay/Curry out, these are the type of high-usage games they gave him $5+ million for. But he's 3/9 FG, 1/6 from 3 for 7 quiet points in 22 quiet minutes. https://t.co/mw00hhud0N— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 11, 2018
Though not a large contract relative to the other ones in the NBA, the Warriors gave a large percentage of their available money to Young in part for nights like these. When he’s had these opportunities, more often than not, Young has come up short this season. I’m certainly not ready to write him off and I do think he’ll make big contributions for the Warriors later on, but it is quite vexing to see him be so underwhelming when he’s given a bit more to do in a given game.
Patrick McCaw also had his struggles while playing increased minutes on Wednesday night. In 24 minutes, McCaw scored just four points and was a team-low -20 while turning the ball over two times. It’s clear to both NBC Sports Bay Area’s Jim Barnett and GSoM’s own Nate Parham was exactly is plaguing McCaw.
Totally agree with Jim Barnett here about McCaw's shot (and really his whole game): overthinking. https://t.co/g8noGpwFMq— CollaborativeBlogger (@NateP_SBN) January 11, 2018
There is a hesitancy to McCaw’s game and, because of that slight moment of hesitation, his shots aren’t falling like they were at times last season. This is something the whole team can struggle with at times, particularly a tendency towards overpassing that often leads to turnovers (like the 16 times the Warriors turned it over against the Clippers on Wednesday night).
But McCaw seems trapped in this feedback loop, where he hesitates and then makes a mistake and then hesitates some more because of the past mistake and thus makes another mistake and so on. Hopefully, something will allow him to get out of this cycle and get back on the track we all predicted for him last season.
The absence of Curry and Thompson was not just felt as it pertained to scoring. Particularly with Thompson being out of the lineup, the Warriors defense took a step back and did not look as sharp as it has at other times this season. Without Thompson, who will usually take the tougher opposing guard on defense, Williams was able to get free and have a career-high scoring night.
While it’s never good to lose to an inter-division rival and to let an opponent score 50 points in your gym, I don't know how much the average Warriors fan should worry after this game. Again, the Warriors were without two of their best players and it took a superhuman effort by Williams to get the Clippers the victory.
Also, much like when the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Warriors in November to snap a long losing streak of their own against the Warriors, eventually the Clippers were finally going to get a game off of us. It was bound to happen and the absence of Curry and Thompson really opened the door for the Clippers to finally get the win.
The biggest disappointment was that a great night for Durant, both for scoring 40 points as well as for scoring his 20,000th career point, was wasted in an uninspired defeat. But with games coming up against some of the best teams in the East—including the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and a rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers—the Warriors will have the chance to erase the bad memories of this game very soon.