Afternoon games in the NBA are always weird. Everyone is off their normal routine, they’re playing competitive basketball when they’d normally be napping, and the fans have to decide whether a 12:30 start time means it’s too early to have a drink. It’s a recipe for sloppy, lackadaisical basketball - until something happens to light a fire under the teams. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Clippers, two fires sprung up for the Golden State Warriors in the second half, and the Clippers weren’t able to staunch the flames in their 105-90 loss.
This was the seventh straight win for the Warriors, and their fourth straight win by at least 15 points. Still, it was close for three full quarters before two incidents led straight to scoring explosions from the Warriors starting backcourt. First, with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter, Isaiah Hartenstein of the Clippers blocked Jordan Poole’s driving layup, and decided to celebrate his achievement by standing over Poole and yelling at him.
Hartenstein took this personal. pic.twitter.com/cQ3FNYMkOQ— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) November 28, 2021
To be clear, this woofing came from Isaiah Hartenstein, a man who’s played more games for the Rio Grande Vipers than for any NBA team. Poole hit the subsequent technical free throw for taunting, and decided, no, that’s not enough. He needed to humiliate Hartenstein. Before the play, Poole had a lackluster four points. In the remaining two-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, Poole had four three-pointers. He hit one three following a Gary Payton II steal (he had four in 12 minutes of action). Then Poole hit another three to answer a Paul George bucket, hit a third after a Hartenstein missed free throw, and finished the quarter with a 27-footer. And he specifically targeted on Hartenstein defensively on most of them.
Jordan Poole three #3 after the taunting tech.— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) November 29, 2021
At this point you know he's targeting Hartenstein on purpose lmao pic.twitter.com/CTK0odCUVU
After the game, Poole said: “All I needed was a free throw to get going. He did a lot of extra stuff underneath the basket. Made a couple big possessions down the court and gave us a big run.”
Steph Curry wasn’t motivated by trash talk, but officiating. The officiating was also out of sorts all game, perhaps due to the early start, and Curry had finally had enough after Terance Mann clobbered him under the basket with no call. Steph screamed at the ref and got T’d up. Perhaps shaken by the out—of-character outburst, Reggie Jackson missed the technical free throw. Then Curry took out his anger on the Clippers. In a 75-second stretch in the 4th quarter, Curry hit three three-pointers, effectively ending the game with five minutes to go. And to top things off, he signaled for a T of his own.
Steph Curry, very mad at officials and his technical foul from earlier, celebrates with a ‘T’ for the refs— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) November 28, 2021
(Clippers get the worst of it) pic.twitter.com/aXw2vZFNGP
Curry finished with seven threes and 33 points. He now has 105 three-pointers on the season, the quickest a player has hit 100 threes. The old record was held by, you guessed it, Wardell Stephen Curry. He’s currently 36 behind Ray Allen for the all-time career three-point record. Asked about the newest Curry flurry, Coach Steve Kerr said, “He clearly got fouled. When he knows he got fouled on a play like that and he doesn’t get the call, the competitor will come out in him and he will lose his mind a little bit.”
Oh, and Curry also had six steals! As a team the Warriors racked up 19 takeaways, including 4 from Payton, and two each from Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, and Otto Porter Jr. Overall, the Clippers turned the ball over 24 times. Porter poured in 18 points off the bench, led the team with ten rebounds and a +22 plus-minus, and inspired thousands of Warriors fans to study the CBA for ways the team can keep Porter on the team after this season. Andrew Wiggins had a quiet 12 points but two blocks and seven rebounds, and Chris Chiozza, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Nemanja Bjelica were positives off the bench, despite combining for six points in their 53 combined minutes.
For the Clippers, Paul George scored 30 points but didn’t get a lot of help. He also didn’t have a lot of ball control, suffering eight turnovers to the Warriors’ pickpocketing ways. George rang up five assists, but they were all in the third quarter, where he was a one-man offense. Marcus Morris and Eric Bledsoe had 13 points, and Bledsoe paced the Clips with 10 rebounds. Luke Kennard was a non-factor with five points in a whopping 34 minutes of play, but that was still better than Reggie Jackson’s 21 scoreless minutes. Bledsoe and Jackson, ostensibly point guards, delivered two combined assists (both Jackson’s).
The game started slowly with a 24-20 first quarter to the Clippers, on the strength of Morris’ nine points and a huge offensive rebounding effort, with LA grabbing seven offensive boards. That counteracted Curry’s three steals, and his two threes, but the Clips went cold in the second. They shot 29% in the quarter, made no threes, and only survived by getting to the foul line. But with 1:40 left, Curry nailed a three and the Warriors took a lead that they would never relinquish.
Ultimately, it simply didn’t feel like the Clippers had the right players to deal with the Warriors small lineups. Centers Hartenstein and Serge Ibaka were largely ineffective on defense, and after the first, neither they nor Ivica Zubac could punish the smaller Warriors in the paint or on the boards. And when the wings handled the ball, the Warriors took it away, leading 18-7 in fast break points. Even when the Warriors turned it over themselves, it felt like they hustled back to get a stop or a turnover almost every time.
The value of getting back on defense in transition. Sloppy passing by the Clippers, but the Warriors in rotation has a hand in them being sloppy. Steph anticipates the kick-out and intercepts the ball, leading to the Poole dunk. pic.twitter.com/y3saJFncdy— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) November 29, 2021
In fact, if the Warriors had shot better than 54.5% from the free throw line, the game might not have been as close as it turned out. The free throw struggles for Andrew Wiggins in particular are worth watching: He’s 7-15 in his past three games. Still, nice to see he’s taking more foul shots.
The 18-2 Warriors travel to Phoenix to play the 17-3 Suns, who are one game behind them in the West and currently on a 16-game win streak. No surprise - Chris Paul traditionally plays great after his owner is accused of harassing his employees and using racial slurs. But it should be the best test yet for this Warriors team, who just got news that Klay Thompson and James Wiseman are headed to Santa Cruz to get some court time. If Tuesday wasn’t enough of a challenge, the Suns come to the Chase Center Friday night.
Based on this game, the Suns’ biggest fear should be a no-call on a clear hack on Curry, Frank Kaminsky getting into it with Jordan Poole, and Chris Paul talking smack about the short-lived State Farm commercial featuring “Cliff” Paul and “Sebastian” Curry. If Jake from State Farm is courtside, Curry just might go for 60.