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Analysis: Warriors clinch top spot in Western Conference with blowout win over Los Angeles Clippers

In the final regular season game played at Oracle Arena, the Warriors thoroughly dominate their Pacific-Division foes on their way to a 131-104 victory.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The atmosphere in Oakland was electric on Sunday evening as the Warriors squared off against the Los Angeles Clippers in Oracle Arena’s final regular season game. Though playoff games obviously remain to be played in the team’s home for the past 47 seasons, this final regular season game carried some emotional importance. It also carried actual basketball-related importance. If the Warriors could pick up the win, they would secure the number-one seed and home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs.

It was a back-and-forth affair for much of the first half with both teams playing well. But the Warriors thoroughly dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers by 24 points, on their way to the 131-104 win.

A shock at the start

From the opening tip, you saw just how special and different this game was going to be as the Warriors came out wearing throwback jerseys in the style of the “We Believe” team that upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs.

The surprise reveal of those jerseys electrified the crowd and created an atmosphere better than one would expect in a team’s final regular season game.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors
In a surprise move, the Warriors wore throwback jerseys honoring the 2007 “We Believe” team in the final regular season game played at Oracle Arena.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Leading the way for the Warriors at the start of the game was Kevin Durant, who scored 10 of 16 his points in that first quarter on 4/4 shooting. Sunday night’s game was another one in which Durant didn’t score (or even shoot) as much as we’ve come to expect yet he still played an important role in his team earning a victory.

But though the Warriors played well in the first, going 13/21 from the field as a team, they led by only 4 points at the end of the quarter. The Clippers were able to keep pace with the Warriors because of the play of Landry Shamet. Shamet scored 12 points in the first quarter, with all four shots coming from long distance. Shamet’s scoring kept the Clippers within striking distance and prevented the Warriors from using all that in-arena energy to get a large lead.

Cousins struggles, Curry shines in the second quarter

DeMarcus Cousins’ first game this season was against this Clippers team and he impressed in his return to the court. The big man did not have as good a game on Sunday night at Oracle. It was a particularly rough first half for Cousins, particularly the second quarter. Cousins went 0/5 from the field in the second quarter, turning the ball over 2 times and picking up 3 fouls.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors
DeMarcus Cousins had a first half that he would probably like to forget in Sunday night’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While Cousins’ struggled, the Warriors got a great performance off the bench from Andrew Bogut. Coming in after Cousins picked up that third foul, Bogut provided great defense, blocking one shot and picking up one steal. He also displayed his ability to be a, shall we say, creative screen-setter on this Stephen Curry three-pointer, a shot on which Durant earned one of his seven assists in Sunday night’s game.

Curry gave the Warriors a spark in the quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 27 points in the second, including two on this impressive layup.

But the Clippers were able to keep things close as the Warriors went into halftime with just a seven-point advantage. In the second quarter, it was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Ivica Zubac leading the way, combining to score 14 points in the second. Through the first-half play of Shamet, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Zubac, the Clippers were able to hang around and make the Warriors really have to earn the win.

Dubs defense dominates in third

While the Clippers remained within striking distance in the first half, the Warriors pulled away in the third quarter and turned what had been a very competitive game into a blowout. In that third quarter, the Warriors outscored the Clippers 42-18 on their way to a 31-point lead at quarter’s end.

The Warriors’ defense was much better in the third quarter. While they allowed the Clippers to get good looks in the first half (especially from three-point range), they put the clamps down in the third quarter. The Clippers shot just 7/18 from the field and 13 from long distance in the quarter while the Warriors forced 7 Clippers turnovers that resulted in 8 points.

Leading the defensive charge was Draymond Green. Green had 3 of his 5 steals in the third quarter, including this one that resulted in a dunk.

In that third quarter that sealed the win, the Warriors turned that great defense into production on offense. Kevon Looney had a strong offensive third quarter on Sunday night, scoring 6 of his 14 points. The Warriors bench, even without Andre Iguodala, scored 54 points in Sunday night’s win over the Clippers. Both the bench along with Green have been playing great during these past few games, especially on offense. If the Warriors can just get a little consistent scoring from Green or a couple of players off the bench, they become almost impossible to beat.

The Warriors closed out their dominant third quarter (something that became a standard during the most-recent seasons at Oracle) with an absurd Curry three-pointer, which got the crowd roaring and probably shook the foundation of the old building just a little bit.

Curry’s shot capped an outstanding third quarter for the team and served as an effective punctuation mark on the competitive portion of this game.

Closing out the win and a wonderful ode to Oracle

With the Warriors up by so much, more or less all of the fourth quarter served as garbage time, so there wasn’t much that you could really derive any conclusions from. Seeing Cousins knock down his second three-pointer of the night, after struggling for so much of the game, was one welcome sight.

But beyond that and Quinn Cook continuing his good play of late (he scored 6 of his 10 points in the fourth), there wasn’t much of any great importance in that final frame. The teams merely played out the string until the final buzzer sounded and the Warriors earned the decisive victory.

After the game was over, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr took the microphone to address the members of Dub Nation assembled at Oracle or watching from home. He unveiled a special remembrance of the team’s 47 seasons spent at Oracle Arena.

Even as the team plays its games over in San Francisco at the Chase Center, they will not be forgetting their time in Oakland. There will be a reminder hanging in the rafters across the Bay.

For the longtime Warriors fan, there was something surreal that the final regular season game in an arena where the faithful watched so many less-than-stellar teams would see the Warriors secure home-court advantage for the entire Western Conference playoffs. There were seasons when just getting to the playoffs felt like a championship, where all you wanted was just a competent and competitive team to watch and didn’t care whether it resulted in postseason play. But now we’re ending the home regular season slate by clinching the top spot in the conference? It is a glorious time to be a Warriors fan.

It was good to be able to take this moment, this final regular season home game at Oracle, to reflect on the past and all the great things that have happened in that building. A chance to reflect and remember and revel in the emotions.

Because in just a few weeks, the serious business that is the 2019 NBA playoffs will start in that same building and there will be no time for that. It’ll be time to focus on the task at hand—the Warriors winning another championship.

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