The Los Angeles Clippers faced off against the Golden State Warriors in the first of a seven game playoff series coined as “must see TV”. Game one at Staples Center did not disappoint.
Heading into the matchup without Warriors center Andrew Bogut, the Clippers smelled blood in the water and sought to capitalize on Bogut’s absence in the post. After getting ahead by 11 points early in the first quarter, Blake Griffin received two quick fouls-which would send him to the bench. He would make one quick appearance in the second quarter, but would only play roughly four minutes in the first half before being called for a third foul.
The Warriors would rally back behind an eight point effort from guard Klay Thompson, followed by All-Star guard Stephen Curry who poured in 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting to close the half. Warriors forward Andre Igoudala would also sit with foul trouble the majority of the first half after collecting four personal fouls in 11 minutes.
With regards to Griffin’s foul trouble head coach Doc Rivers commented, “It’s tough to get your rhythm when you go in and out like that and you only play 19 minutes. I’m sure that Blake would like to have a couple of those fouls back. You can’t waste fouls.” Griffin finished the game with 16 points and three rebounds; eight (points) and three (rebounds) shy of his season average.
Although he had an uncharacteristic three turnovers, Chris Paul picked up some of the scoring load caused by Griffin’s foul trouble, finishing the half with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting. DeAndre Jordan helped close the margin with nine points and eight rebounds, for a tied score of 52-all at the half.
“All that hype absolutely had an impact on how the game was called,” Rivers said. “A lot of them were touch fouls.” A total of 29 fouls were called in the first half alone, 15 of which were called on the Warriors.
It was an ugly second half for the Clippers, marred with eight turnovers and poor shooting. Although Clippers guard J.J. Redick shot a perfect 100 percent for 10 points in the second half, Paul continued to struggle with his shooting going 6-of-13, and Jamal Crawford was a non-factor as he closed the night with nine points, missing all but two of his eleven heavily contested shots.
“We made mistakes,” Griffin said with regards to the teams play. “Some of us, myself included, maybe wanted it too much and came in with an expectation. We just need to relax.” Griffin would continue to critique his play further saying, “I kept putting myself in a hole, I got to do a better job.”
The Clippers bench strung together 26 points, as reserve guard Darren Collison walked away with eight himself on the night, but late in the third quarter the Warriors used a mix of post-isolation and accurate passing, resulting in easy slam dunks and layups for forwards Jermaine O’Neal and David Lee. Lee tallied 20 points and 13 rebounds on the night. The Warriors outscored the Clippers 35 to 27 in the third.
“There were a lot of times where we lost our trust in each other,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We made too many mistakes to win.” Certainly the Clippers six turnovers in the third quarter were played a huge part in a bevy of late game mistakes.
It was a close game in the fourth quarter as the Clippers narrowed the margin after Chris Paul sank two-three balls. After seven lead changes and the score being tied nine-times, the Clippers fell apart towards the end of the quarter with two costly turnovers, and a pair of missed free throws by Paul. The Warriors would go on to win the game, and snatch home court advantage 109 to 105.
The Clippers have had a few moments during the regular season where they’ve received a wake up call after taking the opposition too lightly. This was one of those games. Losing the first of a seven-game series at home definitely resonates with the team, and they’ll seek to even the score in the next contest.
“We had a tremendous will, but this series is far from over.” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. The Clippers will go into game 2 on Monday afternoon with every attempt to prove him right.
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