On Monday evening against the Los Angeles Clippers – their second straight game without the services of Stephen Curry -- the Warriors’ offense became the anti-Drake, in that they started at the top, but ended up crashing down to the bottom.
In their previous game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors posted an offensive rating of 124.7, well above their league leading rating of 119.2. Despite missing the heart and soul of their system, the Warriors were able to produce an abundant amount of offense, courtesy of Kevin Durant’s scoring and playmaking, Quinn Cook’s ability to step up in the absence of Curry, and Klay Thompson’s good shooting night.
Against the Clippers, the Warriors’ offensive rating came crashing down to reality, like Neo when he awoke from the Matrix to a world where he was hardwired to a liquid tank and was treated like a mass-produced battery — 103.6, per NBA.com. The fact that the Warriors’ version of Neo — or The One — was missing finally came back to bite them hard.
For the majority of the game, the Warriors practically depended on the scoring prowess of Durant to keep them in contention. Up until overtime, the Warriors were always playing catch-up, with not a single second spent in regulation with possession of the lead. The Clippers were doing an excellent job of playing defense on the Warriors, and with Thompson having an awful shooting night, it was up to Durant to bail the Warriors out.
With Durant leading the way, and Thompson starting to heat up, the Warriors almost willed their way back from a double-digit deficit – if not for the fact that the Warriors had a gun aimed at their feet all night long, and kept firing and firing.
The Warriors have always been a turnover-prone team, due to the fact that they play at an accelerated pace, and that their motion offense puts a huge emphasis on passing the ball. It is a double-edged sword – lots of passing can create a lot of efficient scoring opportunities, but it can also give the defense lots of chances to disrupt those passes and force turnovers.
Against the Nets, the Warriors were able to keep their turnover number at a minimum — 10, to be exact. Seeing as how the Warriors average 15.1 turnovers per game, keeping it well below their average was a victory in and of itself, and it certainly contributed to their uninterrupted flow of offensive production.
But like an old flame who persistently insists on getting back together, turnovers reappeared and re-attached itself to the identity of the Warriors’ offense. The Warriors posted 17 turnovers overall in the game, with 8 being committed in the third quarter alone. It certainly was a huge factor as to why the Clippers were able to mount a nine-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Thompson heats up in the fourth quarter
In the fourth quarter, some clutch plays on both ends — and an absolute gem of an ATO play from Steve Kerr — salvaged the game for the Warriors, enough for them to take the Clippers into the deep waters of overtime.
Down by nine, the Warriors manage to get multiple transition opportunities, courtesy of a Draymond Green steal, followed by a Thompson steal. The first steal by Green is a wasted opportunity, as he immediately loses the ball in transition. The Clippers bring the ball up, and Thompson anticipates a pass going to his man, cuts in front of the passing lane, and intercepts the ball, leading to a transition layup to cut the lead to seven.
The Clippers manage to get the lead back up to eleven. With the opportunity to stretch that lead to thirteen or fourteen, the Clippers come up empty in this possession, courtesy of Thompson’s excellent defense. He blocks a shot attempt, with the ball finding its way to Andre Iguodala. In classic Iguodala fashion, he pushes the pace and flies toward the rim for the dunk.
After a Lou Williams three stretches the Clipper lead to fourteen, the Warriors run Durant and Thompson in a pick-and-roll, with Thompson acting as the screener. Instead of rolling toward the basket, Thompson pops out to the wing. A moment of hesitation by Thompson’s defender gives Thompson just enough space to bury the three, cutting the lead back to eleven.
The deficit is cut to single digits after Durant draws a couple of fouls, makes his free throws, and assists on an Andre Iguodala slam dunk. Down by eight points, the Warriors call timeout, and Steve Kerr takes this opportunity to draw up an ATO special for Thompson.
With Durant handling the ball, he gets a side screen from Kevon Looney. Off the ball, Thompson fakes a back screen for Iguodala, which serves as misdirection for the actual action. After screening for Durant, Looney comes over to set a pin down for Thompson. No one is there to switch onto Thompson, since Durant has drawn two defenders onto him as a result of the initial screening action. Thompson gets a wide open three to cut the deficit to five.
A clutch two-way sequence puts the Warriors within a single possession of the Clippers. Green shows off his defensive mastery and cleanly strips the ball from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The ball finds its way to Thompson, who has Williams defending him. A pump fake gets Williams up in the air and out of position, and a dribble step-back jumper by Thompson cuts the deficit to three.
Another defensive stop gives the Warriors an opportunity to tie the game. Showing signs of heating up and being in rhythm, Thompson receives the ball several feet from the three-point line and hoists a deep three, as if to pay tribute to his injured Splash Brother.
And pay tribute, he did.
With Lou Williams missing an opportunity to win the game for the Clippers, Green hauls in the rebound with five seconds to go in regulation. Curiously, Kerr elects not to call a timeout. Green ignores Durant’s plea to pass him the ball, and instead pushes the pace himself. He also misses Thompson running to his right and setting up for a three — resulting in Green falling and mishandling the ball. Overtime.
Warriors fail to maintain an overtime advantage
With overtime barely in its stage of infancy, Durant receives a highly questionable foul call from crew chief Marc Davis. One would think that calls like these, especially at a high-stakes point of the game and involving an important player, would be best not made — but this refereeing crew was particularly whistle-happy all night long, and Durant, having been put in the precarious position of being one foul away from being permanently glued to the bench, could do nothing but protest in disgust.
Foul? You be the judge.
The Warriors get their first lead of the game from an Iguodala three. After a made shot by the Clippers, Thompson hits a running jumper to regain the three-point lead. But a crucial turnover by Alfonzo McKinnie kills the Warriors’ momentum.
After Montrezl Harrell ties up the game with an and-1, McKinnie coughs up the ball yet again due to an extremely risky pass in traffic.
Despite Thompson burying another three to tie the game up at 116-all, the Clippers would go on to score the final five points of the game, courtesy of the Lou Williams foul-drawing show. The Warriors lost a game they probably deserved to lose in the first place — despite a furious comeback attempt getting derailed by a slew of questionable calls and decisions.
With the Atlanta Hawks knocking at their doorstep, the Warriors will once again miss the services of Curry tomorrow night. With no Neo to warp gravity and stop the bullets of the opposing team in their tracks, the Warriors will need to find other ways of being effective on offense without their chosen one.
Fourteen down, 68 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.