It was Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles, and the Golden State Warriors celebrated by opening the heart of their defense to the Los Angeles Clippers. All five Clippers starters scored in double figures, Terrance Mann shot 10-12 on two-pointers on his way to 25 points, and Ivica Zubac single-handedly got Bob Myers interested in the buyout market for big men after shoving around the Warriors all night, on the way to a 119-104 win.
Paul George, Normal Powell, and Luke Kennard were all out for the Clippers, but absence made the drives to the basket stronger for LA. Steph Curry let it fly from the perimeter like a baby-faced Cupid who thought the net cord and the basket needed to hook up, nailing eight three-pointers, but the Clippers as a whole were like Cupid with a crossbow, shooting 44% from long-range on the night,
The third quarter was more like the historical story of Saint Valentine - a man beaten by clubs and beheaded by a cruel emperor. The Clippers outscored the Warriors 33-19, and shot 11-13 on two-pointers. They only out-rebounded the Warriors 10-8, but that’s because they made 2⁄3 of their shots - there were hardly any offensive rebounds to be had. For the first nine minutes, the Warriors’ only points came from Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney, as the Clippers sent multiple defenders at Curry. Steph finally shook free from the defensive love triangles thanks to a nice screen by wingman Nemanja Bjelica, nailing a four-point play to cut the lead to single digits.
But alas, as happens so often on Valentine’s Day, the Warriors’ hopes were dashed by a heartless Mann. Terrance Mann had no regard for the feelings of the Dubs’ tender interior defense, scoring the Clippers’ final ten points of the quarter with a series of acrobatic drives and jumpers. And to add injury to insult, he elbowed Steph in the face earlier in the quarter.
Jordan Poole beat the buzzer with a dramatic jumper, but it would have been a whole lot more dramatic had it cut the lead to less than 16 points.
The Warriors finally got some stops when the fourth quarter began, but they couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end. They forced turnovers, Los Angeles missed three shots, and Damion Lee drew an offensive foul, but the Dubs couldn’t score until Steph’s final three-pointer with 9:10 left in the game. Wiggins got a block, but another product of the Clippers’ excellent developmental system, Amir Coffey, hit a three and then found Robert Covington for another three ball. When Mann picked Curry and took it in for another layup, Steve Kerr waved the white flag and cleared his bench.
Early on, this game was a shootout. The Warriors shot 61%, while the Clippers made 53% of their shots. Of course, that shooting disparity was more than equaled by Zubac, who turned three missed shots into put-back baskets. Curry made his first six shots from the field, including four three-pointers, doing his best to abuse Zubac on the perimeter in revenge for how he was bullying poor Kevon Looney down low.
Curry scored 16 points in the quarter and the Warriors only turned the ball over once. Wiggins also nailed two triples, and then team went 9-14 from deep overall. Unfortunately, that was more triples then they’d hit in the remainder of the game.
Dubs continued their hot shooting into the second, with Curry carving up the Clippers’ defense.
Golden State stretched the lead to eight points after Otto Porter continued his hot offensive rebounding ways, putting back a Jordan Poole miss to make it 54-46. And then the Clippers started firing away. Nic Batum hit a three, seven-footer Isaiah Hartenstein hit a three (yet another successful Clipper reclamation!), and Batum forced a timeout with a game-tying jumper. Curry came back in, but the formerly careful Warriors committed turnovers on a stunning four straight possessions. It was a real Weakness In Numbers sequence, with four different Warriors managing to give the ball away.
Overall the Warriors went scoreless for over four minutes, and the Clippers snapped off a 13-0 run. Worst of all, it seemed to wake up Terrence Mann, who noticed that the Warriors point of attack defense was starting to sag. As former coach Mark Jackson would say, Momma, there goes that Mann. He also said hand down, Mann down, but Terrence was mostly elevating for layups. Curry cut the margin to two points with a deep three late, but Wiggins missed a wide-open three-pointer that would have given Golden State the halftime lead, and they never got the lead again.
It seemed like the Warriors were simply tired. Whether that was playing a 20th straight game without Draymond Green - they’re 13-7 without him - or the usual consequence of coming to LA a day early for a game. It could be fatigue, it could be access to Super Bowl parties. We’re not saying Klay Thompson partied too hard, but a player who did party too hard would probably shoot close to Klay’s 3-14, with some less than committed perimeter defense.
Still, the third quarter wouldn’t have gotten so out of control if some wide-open three-pointers had simply gone in. Curry was making the right plays to punish the Chef-centric defense; but his teammates certainly weren’t knocking down the open looks. Damion Lee missed two straight while a sliver of hope still remained in the fourth, and rookie Moses Moody bricked a layup right after.
What was the highlight? Jonathan Kuminga sending Isaiah Hartenstein into the sunken place. Hartenstein was so stunned that he tried to inbound the ball from five feet onto the court.
Kuminga may have been avenging Jordan Poole, who Hartenstein famously taunted in a previous game, or maybe he’s simply trying to embarrass everyone who failed to choose him for the dunk contest or the Rising Stars Game this weekend. Kuminga finished with ten points, but only two rebounds. As a group the Warriors starters only got 13 rebounds, while the Clippers starters had 33 points.
The loss dropped the Warriors to 42-16, five games behind the Phoenix Suns and just two ahead of the third-place Memphis Grizzlies. Overall, the All-Star Break can’t come soon enough for this team, which looks exhausted after five sub-par games in a row, not coincidentally against teams with big strong front court players. That streak continues Wednesday night against Denver and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who may force the Warriors into a tough roster decision - and a generous offer to a potentially-bought-out Robin Lopez of the Orlando Magic. If you see Kirk Lacob setting up a tour of Pixar’s offices this week, well, you know who’s coming to the Chase Center.