This series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, expected to be the most exciting match-up in the first round of the Playoffs, did not disappoint one bit as Game 1 at the Staples Center had the intensity, defense and competitiveness one would come to expect at this time of the year in the NBA.
These two teams highly underrated on defense, ranking among the top 5 in the league in offensive efficiency and clearly not a fan of each other as seen in their chippy regular season encounters, were all even heading into the locker room after a choppy uneven first half with both teams plagued by early foul trouble.
But behind a hot-shooting third quarter and few clutch free throws in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Warriors followed in the footsteps of the Brooklyn Nets, as the road team went on to win Game 1. An entertaining game that went down to the wire just set the platform for a great series to look forward to.
The style of play in the first half was very unlike both teams, however, it was more than just unusual play where the Clippers lost this game:
Warriors’ third quarter
Head Coach Mark Jackson’s decision to keep four of the five Warriors starters in the second half for 14 straight minutes on the floor paid off as they gained an 8-point lead to start the 4th quarter.
As a team they shot the ball well and answered every basket that J.J. Reddick banged in. Despite some terrific shooting themselves, the Clippers couldn’t stop the Warriors from shooting even better and grabbing an emphatic statement rendering road victory with their play in the third quarter.
On the back of the resurgence of David Lee after a dismal foul-plagued first half, and 14-20 team shooting performance from the field, the Warriors silenced the Clippers fans at Staples Center.
Warriors’ defense on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin’s foul trouble
Golden State had done it’s homework on Chris Paul and constantly throughout the game had a bigger size defender on him. Klay Thompson was the one selected to guard Paul and he did a terrific job to restrict him to a sub-par performance by his standards. Jordan Crawford standing tall at 6 foot 4 inches filled in for Thompson during his first half rest on the bench.
Paul was not very effective with his passing and did not get as many successful drives to the basket as you would normally expect from a player of his calibre. Instead Paul committed three offensive fouls on his drives and his absence on the court for a major portion of the fourth period dealt a hard blow to the Clippers’ chances of winning the game after Blake Griffin was already warming the benches with foul trouble of his own.
Griffin was restricted to just four minutes in the first half, but the Clippers gave him the opportunity to get his rhythm back in the second and he answered their call by scoring 8 of his 16 points in the third period of play up until he received two fouls in quick succession, to add to his three from the first half.
Jermaine O’Neal filling in for Australian center Andrew Bogut in the starting line-up, along with Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, played some handy game changing minutes in the game. The influence of these three might not be seen in the box score, but they did everything right from deflection and touch passes to grabbing offensive boards, especially Green who knocked in a pair of clutch free throws with only 24 seconds remaining on the game clock.
In a series that the Warriors entered short-handed with the rib fracture to Bogut, Marreese Speights contributed efficiently in his 13 minutes of play scoring six points on 3-5 shooting and grabbing 5 rebounds.
The game came down to a battle of nerves in the final couple of minutes of the fourth quarter after the Clippers made a run to tie the game. Having said that, the play of one particular Clipper was an extremely positive sign to take away from this game
X-Factor- DeAndre Jordan
Jordan was manhandling the Warriors by scoring in transition with dunks and knocking down and-ones as the Warriors struggled to deal with him on either end of the floor. Jordan was making his presence felt on the defensive end recording 6 blocks in just the first half.
Although he missed a few free throws in the crucial minutes of the fourth quarter as the Warriors took to ‘Hack-a-Jordan’ to gain the upper hand, his potential was on full display in the first half and Head Coach Doc Rivers will most definitely look to utilize the big man’s advantage in the interior.