The Staples Center had the best show in town on Thursday night as the defending NBA Champions went to work against the Clippers. The game was intense with the two rivals putting on valiant efforts, but the expected occurred which leads me to ask: are we surprised?
Golden State couldn't hit anything to start the game. Outside of Klay Thompson, the Warriors came out of the gate extremely slow. Steph Curry picked up two quick fouls on foolish defensive plays, causing him to sit out most of the first quarter. Shaun Livingston was out due to a bad hip and Leandro Barbosa had the flu. Ian Clark and Brandon Rush were the only two remaining backup guards outside of Andre Iguodala.
Golden State did something we rarely see them do: struggle. The first half was a misery for the high-powered squad. For once, they looked like the team that didn't belong on the court while their opponent washed them away. They looked like a team that is absolutely clueless without their best player and one that needed their head coach desperately.
But the Warriors did what the Warriors do and didn't go away without putting up a fight.
Ian Clark gave the Warriors a huge spark. He helped set-up Draymond Green for a corner three-pointer to end the third quarter. Surprise, surprise . . . Golden State was down by only single digits to enter the fourth quarter. DeAndre Jordan made four free-throws in the second half and Josh Smith made a miraculous three off the glass that gave the Clippers some momentum after blowing their lead.
However, Steph Curry did Steph Curry things and the rest of the team followed his pursuit. They shot the ball 73 percent from the field and 89 percent from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the NBA Champs looked like the NBA Champs.
Since the start of last season, the Warriors are 3-3 when they trail by 20 points in a game. The rest of the NBA? 13-486 (via ESPN).
Chris Paul entered the game like the Chris Paul we were all used to seeing these past few seasons. He showed no signs of a lingering groin injury and pulled out his inner Steph Curry to put on a fun show to watch. He had 18 points, didn't miss a shot, and nailed three after three after three to leave the Warriors in disarray in the first quarter. Blake Griffin continued to look like the best power forward in the league so far this season and their bench gave them a boost.
Paul slowed down in the second quarter, but Griffin took this chance to take over. Josh Smith entered the game and gave the team an energy boost. Everything was going well for the Clippers, despite seeing their lead shrink down to 15 points during certain times.
The final two quarters looked more like Clippers basketball. Flashback to last postseason where they were up by 19 points against the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter . . . in a game that would have sent them to the Western Conference Finals. They blew the lead and lost the series.
The Clippers couldn't defend, Doc Rivers played his son almost as much as the team's franchise point guard, and they lost composure, per usual.
Social media saw it best.
Blake Griffin said it best after the game, "I wouldn't really say this is a rivalry. We're trying to get where they are."
And it's true. The Warriors are on a separate tier from the Clippers and it might be that way for a while. We are not surprised.