The best game of the first night of NBA playoff basketball went in the way of the Golden State Warriors, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 109-105 thanks to an incredible effort on defense and the rebounding department, getting by without Stephen Curry exploding thanks to getting Blake Griffin in foul trouble.
There were a lot of things that went wrong for the Clippers during the game. The most obvious of their faults? Their defense simply wasn’t prepared for all that movement, screens and off the ball cuts. Maybe Andrew Bogut not playing is going to hurt the Warriors later on, but it did make their offense a lot more mobile, as Clippers players fell asleep on screens, not making the right switches or over committing to ball movement when there was no need.
Curry was defended well. He scored 14 points on 6-of-16 from the field and turned the ball over seven times. But all that extra attention helped the Warriors expose other holes in the Clippers defense, esepcially as Griffin played for only 19 minutes, eventually fouling out in a frustrating game for him that had a little bit more of the dose the Warriors usually have for him: Cheap shots and being aggressive as possible, trying to shake his balance.
The big heroes for the Warriors came from the bench: Draymond Green, scoring 7 points to go with 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks, but more than that Harrison Barnes. A player who had a rough sophomore season suddenly looked like the promising rookie from last season, influential on both ends of the floor, finishing with 14 points, 8 rebounds, one huge block in the fourth quarter and connecting three times from beyond the arc.
David Lee isn’t usually known for his defense but he sure did put in the extra effort in the paint with 13 rebounds and 20 points. Klay Thompson was hard to stop and did a good job with his long arms on defense, as the Clippers looked lost and stuck too many times, taking quick and bad shots despite having the alleged best point guard in the NBA on their side. Thompson finished with 22 points.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 28 points but made too many mistakes late in the game, including a foolish turnover and a couple of head-in-the-wall moments instead of trying to move the ball. J.J. Redick was golden every time he touched the ball, scoring 22 points on 8-of-11 from the field, but the Clippers stopped trying to do the things that worked late in the game, afraid of putting the ball in the hands of DeAndre Jordan or Redick, probably costing them in some way the game.
Bad news for the Los Angeles Clippers? Since moving to Los Angeles, the Clippers are 0-5 in series where they lost Game 1. This series looks like something that will drag on (with an enjoyable twist for seven games). The Warriors might not have their center, but as long as their bench and guards play bigger than they actually are, they’re going to do fine despite the presence of Blake Griffin and Jordan on the other side.