Warriors take Game 1 from Clippers

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The Warriors were thought to be in some trouble against a very good Clippers team in the first round of the playoffs, considering they’d be without the defense of Andrew Bogut due to injury.

But when a team can put together an offensive display like we saw from Golden State in the third quarter of Game 1, it can solve a lot of problems.

That stretch of brilliance from the Warriors and just enough defense to hold off a late Clippers rally secured a 109-105 Game 1 victory that came down to the final possessions.

It ended up being a very entertaining contest, but it didn’t start out that way. The two halves were extremely different in terms of watchability, as the referees clamped down hard on both teams to take control of the game (and the series) early in order to avoid any fireworks. The teams had traded shots through the media leading up to Game 1, after some battles during the regular season made it clear that plenty of animosity existed.

The excessive whistles hurt both sides. Andre Iguodala, the Warriors best defender, had three fouls by the time the first quarter was finished, and fouled out after playing just 20 minutes in total. Mark Jackson left him in longer than most coaches would have, though he felt that defensively he had no choice. Doc Rivers managed his star’s foul trouble much differently, and limited Blake Griffin to less than four first half minutes after he picked up his third foul with 11:21 to play in the second quarter.

The teams were tied at halftime, but once the third quarter began, the Warriors put on a show.

Golden State made 14 of its 20 shots in the period, good for a mark of 70 percent. The team carved up the Clippers inside, using dribble penetration and smart interior passing to get easy looks right at the rim. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan would continually come over to help, with the strategy defensively being to try to trap Stephen Curry off of pick and roll situations. But his teammates didn’t make the additional necessary rotations — 18 of the Warriors’ 35 points in the third were scored in the paint, helping them take an eight-point advantage into the final period.

Chris Paul scored 10 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter while rallying the Clippers from a double digit deficit, and hit a huge three to tie it with 2:27 remaining. But Paul missed two free throws that could’ve cut the Warriors’ lead to one with 11 seconds left, essentially ending his team’s chances.

The next game in the series will likely be very different, in that foul trouble typically doesn’t continue for guys like Iguodala and Griffin from one contest to the next. But the Clippers have plenty of adjusting to do from a defensive standpoint if they’re going to take away all those easy points in the paint. They were successful in limiting Curry and Klay Thompson to low-percentage performances, however, so maybe the reality is simply that they have to give up something.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.