On Easter Sunday afternoon, the Warriors faced off against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. After their Game 3 win that erased many of the questions that followed their historic Game 2 collapse, the Warriors looked to take a decisive advantage in Sunday afternoon’s game.
At times, the Warriors looked poised to turn this game a blowout, leading at one point by 12 points. The Clippers, though, were not ready to capitulate to the Warriors’ desire to make this a quick series, fighting back and even holding a five-point lead late in the third quarter. But the Warriors answered every Clippers run and held on for the 113-105 victory that put them up three games to one in this opening-round playoff series.
Klay Day in L.A.
Through the first three games of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Klay Thompson had been unable to get into a groove. Thompson did not score more than 20 points in those first three games (with his scoring high coming in the Game 2 debacle, contributing 17 points). But Thompson played a much different and better game on Sunday afternoon. The Warriors’ shooting guard was dialed in from the very beginning of the game, scoring 17 of his 32 points in the first quarter, which allowed the Warriors to hold a ten-point advantage after the first frame.
Save for Kevin Durant (who I will talk about later), the other Warriors struggled to score consistently but Thompson was there to be the driving offensive force in that first half. Thompson scored 10 points in the second quarter, giving him a game-high 27 points at the end of the first half.
Thompson cooled off ever so slightly in the second half as the action moved away from him and he scored just five more points in the game’s two remaining quarters. But he still came up with this fourth-quarter basket that helped the Warriors close out the win and get out of Los Angeles with a 3-1 advantage in the series.
Thompson’s 32 points were the most he’s scored in a playoff game since his 35-point eruption in Game 6 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals. After the game, Thompson attributed his better play to the use of the off-day in Southern California.
Klay said he was playing beach volleyball with Jonas Jerebko yesterday and decided to jump into the ocean to clear his head. He thinks that got him on the right track again.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) April 21, 2019
Perhaps Thompson is like Superman, who gets his power from Earth’s sun. Hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities for Thompson to soak up some rays throughout the 2019 playoffs.
Another star performance from Durant
On Sunday afternoon, Durant picked up where he left off in the Game 3 blowout win. Durant scored a game-high 33 points against the Clippers, going 12/21 from the field and 3/6 from long distance. While in Game 3 the game plan was to showcase Durant, Game 4 didn’t seem to be the same focus yet Durant was still able to pour in the points.
Durant even achieved a little bit of history in Game 4 as he moved past Hakeem Olajuwon into sole possession of 13th place on the NBA’s all-time postseason scoring list. Durant moved past the Dream on this four-point play at the end of the second quarter that secured an eight-point halftime advantage for the Warriors.
Durant also handed out 6 assists in the win against the Clippers, moving him past Tom Gola and moving into ninth place on the Warriors’ all-time postseason assists list. Durant picked up one of his assists on this pass that set up Andre Iguodala for two of his ten points.
It was Durant’s second-consecutive impressive performance in Los Angeles, the same arena in which the season seemed poised to spin out of control on November 12th. Durant (and the Warriors as a team) came to Staples Center with some questions surrounding them. After these two games, they leave Los Angeles looking as strong as ever.
Dubs contain Clippers’ offensive weapons
While Thompson and Durant scoring played a bit part of this win, another key element was the Warriors’ improved defense. The Warriors held the Clippers 42.5% from the field. The Clippers were able to keep things close primarily because of their three-point shooting and their ability to get to the free-throw line but in the key moments the defense was able to slow down the Clippers and earn the victory.
More importantly, the Warriors did a much better job against the two players who gave them trouble during the early games of this series—Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The Warriors held Williams to 12 points on 2/10 shooting while Harrell scored just 10 points.
After the game, Kevon Looney talked about what the Warriors did differently against that combination that caused them so many problems in the early going of this series.
Kevon Looney on successfully defending the Lou/Trez PnR. Stresses switching up looks pic.twitter.com/hQTj4sUrBT— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) April 21, 2019
For Looney in particular, getting up to speed when it comes to defending a difficult pick-and-roll combo will be helpful as it looks like the Houston Rockets will be waiting for the Warriors once the defending champions dispatch the Clippers.
The Warriors also turned the Clippers’ most important players into defensive liabilities on the other end of the court, which showed up in their respective plus/minus totals. Williams finished Game 4 with a -18 while Harrell finished with a -17. Though the Clippers’ rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played well by scoring 25 points in the loss, the Warriors put the clamps on the Clippers’ most proficient offensive weapons, which resulted in the Warriors claiming a decisive advantage in the first round of the 2019 Western Conference playoffs.
Curry struggles but still contributes
While Thompson and Durant dominated Sunday afternoon’s game, Stephen Curry had his fair share of struggles. Curry scored just 12 points against the Clippers, going 1/9 from three-point range in the game. Curry’s only make from three-point range came towards the end of the third quarter.
While Curry did have a subpar game shooting, he nevertheless kept fighting and playing, helping his team win. In addition to staying active, thus commanding attention from the Clippers on defense, Curry handed out 7 assists and pulled down 10 rebounds. It was the second game in the series in which Curry had 10+ rebounds in a game, cementing his status as a vastly underrated rebounder at the guard position.
The Warriors will look to close out the series and eliminate the Clippers on Wednesday night in Game 5 back at Oracle Arena.