© Kelley L Cox | 2019 Apr 24
The Clippers won the game no one thought they could for the second straight time in Oracle Arena. They beat the Warriors, 129-121, Wednesday night to force a Game 6 in Los Angeles.
Here are five takeaways.
Warriors’ lack of intensity, energy a surprising sight
Somehow, the energy was low from the tip, despite the gravity of the closeout game.
The Warriors seemed to go through the emotions in the early going. Offensively, they consistently shot after one or two passes rather than moving the ball with their typical crispness. The defensive intensity was much worse. The Clippers got open shots off ball movement, normally the Warriors’ offensive hallmark. When they didn’t fall, the Clippers won the 50-50 balls more times than not.
Patrick Beverley was responsible for many of them. He corralled six rebounds in the first quarter alone, half of which either came in congested areas or over a much taller Warrior. The Clippers converted on those second chances. Beverley tallied 11 points on 4-5 shooting and Danilo Gallinari got going after a horrible four-game start to the series.
At some point, you figured the Warriors would turn up the intensity, but it never happened until the fourth quarter. Oracle Arena was never fully invested into the game, and the Warriors never allowed it to happen.
After what happened in Game 2 — the Warriors blew an NBA playoff-record 31 point-lead to lose — you’d think the lack of intensity in Game 5, a closeout game, would naturally be high. Somehow, it was not. The young, feisty Clippers seemingly wanted it more.
Defensive woes resurface
Clippers coach Doc Rivers has praised the Warriors as a defensive juggernaut, but they hardly resembled that Wednesday. They allowed the Clippers to shoot 54.1 percent from the floor for 129 points.
Los Angeles’ offensive clinic started early. Eleven of its 13 made first-quarter field goals came off assists, a good chunk courtesy of offensive rebounds.
The Clippers shot even better in the second quarter, as Lou Williams and Montrez Harrell started to heat up. Williams poured in 18 first-half points and Harrell chipped in 10. They combined to go 13/16 from the floor in the first half, conjuring memories of their dominant second half in Game 2 on the same floor.
The Warriors offense was actually terrific throughout the first half. They were 10-16 from three-point land and turned the ball over just five times. Yet they still trailed by eight at halftime, highlighting their poor defense.
Even though the Warriors tightened up a bit in the third quarter, they still allowed 31 points. More importantly, the Clippers launched a 7-0 run to end the quarter, flipping the momentum and silencing an Oracle crowd ready to burst into delirium.
By the end of the third quarter, the Warriors had allowed 104 points. In Game 1, they allowed 104 the whole game. They gave up just 105 points in both Games 3 and 4, while holding Los Angeles to 37.2 and 42.5 percent shooting from the floor.
The Warriors’ best defense of the night came during a stretch midway through the fourth quarter. They didn’t bite on Gallinari’s fakes. They denied Williams the ball and played tight to his hip without fouling when he drove to the hoop. The Los Angeles offense stalled, and the Warriors slowly shrunk the deficit, despite missing a handful of open shots.
But Williams was ultimately too much. He hit three consecutive shots in closing time to seal the win.
Beverley sets the tone, Williams finishes it off
Beverley stamped his footprint on this game from the jump. There were the energy plays — the offensive rebounds and deflections that led to Clippers points — and typical hard-nosed defense. But Beverley also stepped up offensively, a welcome sight for the Clippers. He chipped in 17 points on 5-11 from three-point range.
Early in the third quarter, Beverley finally got under the Warriors’ skin. He lost his shoe on an offensive possession, then retreated defensively while holding the shoe in his hand. When Draymond Green posted him up, Beverley, holding the shoe, sold a charge. Green stepped over Beverley and promptly got t-ed up.
The disrespect 👀 pic.twitter.com/EE2aIFTBpz
— KNBR (@KNBR) April 25, 2019
William, Harrell, and Gallinari may have been the statistical stars for Los Angeles, but Beverley’s energy jumpstarted the team’s huge night. He continues to find ways to bother the Warriors.
When the game got close, however, Williams closed it out. He responded to Durant’s dunk with a four-point play, then made a contested floater, then hit a tough mid-range shot. The seven-point run extinguished all the energy and momentum the Warriors had built by taking a late one-point lead, and the Clippers cruised for the final minute-and-a-half.
For spurts of this series, Williams has been the best player on the floor. He was when it counted, once again, Wednesday night.
Durant with another prolific night
Since Kevin Durant reminded the world who he is last week, he has played like arguably the best player in the world.
In Game 3, he poured in 38 points on 14/23 shooting. In Game 4, he methodically chipped in 33. Fast forward to Wednesday, and Durant amassed 45 points.
The four-time NBA scoring champion scored 14 of the Warriors’ 31 points in the third quarter. The offense funneled through him, and he continued to find his spots. Steve Kerr opted to leave Durant in the game for all but a minute-and-a-half of the second half, deviating from his customary late-third-quarter-to-early-fourth-quarter rest period. He was simply too important to sit.
Durant got Oracle Arena to explode with a monster dunk to put the Warriors ahead by one point with fewer than three minutes remaining. Then, Williams silenced the crowd with a cold-blooded three-pointer while being fouled by Durant. On the following possession, the Clippers got a stop and Williams sunk a floater over Durant, again.
Durant finished the night with 45 points on 14-26 shooting. He has reiterated that his offensive approach depends on the game’s flow and what his team needs of him. On Wednesday, they needed him to find his shot, and his hot hand was the primary reason why the game was even close.
Golden State to play while Houston rests
The Warriors, opening at 14.5-point favorites Wednesday, were expected to coast to a series win and move onto the matchup the NBA world has long awaited with the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals. By winning Wednesday, the Warriors would have the same amount of rest time as the Rockets, who closed out the Utah Jazz in five games about 10 minutes before the Warriors tipped off.
But the Warriors will have to travel to Los Angeles as Houston rests. For the Rockets, playing the Warriors sooner rather than later was likely preferable because they rely so heavily on James Harden and Chris Paul. Now, those guys will get even more rest, as the Warriors have a real series on their hands.