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.