Kurt Helin

DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin

Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Clippers, coffee is for closers


There were just three games in the NBA Thursday, but the Warriors and Clippers gave us probably the best game of the young season. If you were busy getting your name changed and didn’t catch the action, here is what you missed from a Thursday night around the league.

1) Clippers, put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers only. Alec Baldwin (channeling David Mamet) may have been talking directly to the Clippers. Thursday night on national television Los Angeles was up 23 in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth quarter on Golden State and lost — and that was just the latest in a long-line of blown leads, blown chances by the Clippers. They were up on the Warriors in the fourth earlier this season and lost. Last May they were up three games to one and 17 points in the second half of game five against Houston and lost that series. I can go on and on, but you get the point — when it comes time to execute down the stretch the Clippers fall apart. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined to shoot 3-of-10 in the fourth quarter Thursday, they didn’t execute. When things get tight, the Clippers get tight. And they know it.

“We have got to do a better job playing 48 minutes,” Paul Pierce said.

“Down the stretch we just have to be a little more together…” Austin Rivers said. “We have to trust each other more and to understand that it’s not ‘I have to make the big play,’ it’s we have to make this big play.”

In crunch time, the Warriors were moving the ball and trusting the open man. The Clippers become predictable. It’s an ongoing issue. Getting over this hump is why Doc Rivers was brought in, but he hasn’t been able to get them there yet. You have to learn how to win in this league, but when will CP3 and Griffin be able to pass the test? Can they?

2) Rajon Rondo was one rebound short of his fifth triple-double in seven games. To be honest, I think the triple-double can be an overrated stat, but if you’re putting up five of those in seven games you are impacting the game. Rajon Rondo is doing just that — was dishing and dealing for the Kings in Miami Thursday, putting up 14 points, dishing 18 assists, and grabbing nine rebounds. It’s the assists that have impacted the Kings — they are starting to move the ball, more like we expect from a George Karl team, and Rondo is leading that. However, with this roster that also means a to of Sacramento turnovers. But given his freedom, Rondo is putting up excellent numbers nightly.

The Kings lost, which is expected when DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t play (suspended for an elbow to head of Hawks’ Al Horford). The scarier news in Sacramento is Rudy Gay left the game in the third quarter grabbing his shoulder. No details on the severity of his injury, he will undergo an MRI on Friday.

3) Milwaukee’s John Henson is the early leader in the flop of the year contest with this effort from Thursday.

Clippers wake up sloppy Warriors, pay price as Curry sparks comeback win

Stephen Curry, Paul Pierce

LOS ANGELES — Before his team took the court Thursday night, Luke Walton said the Warriors’ execution had gotten sloppy of late. It was why they had a close game against Brooklyn just a few days before. However, the Warriors hadn’t paid a price yet, so he wasn’t sure the message to tighten things up was getting through to his team.

The Clippers sent the message loud and clear — they threw a haymaker at the start of Thursday night’s anticipated showdown. The Clippers were pressuring on defense, forcing stops, then converting those to easy buckets going the other way. Chris Paul came out on fire hitting midrange jumpers and threes, he started 7-of-7 and had 18 of the Clippers first 30 points, added on four assists, plus got a couple early fouls on Curry that forced him to the bench. The Clippers led by 23 at one point in the quarter. The Clippers were clearly the better team.

Yet the lead never felt comfortable. The Warriors needed a challenge, and the Clippers gave them one. The Warriors responded like NBA champions.

Make that the 13-0 Warriors as they came back to beat the Clippers 124-117 in a game that felt about as much like a playoff game as you are going to find in November. Stephen Curry led the way with 40 points for Golden State; Paul had 35 for Los Angeles.

“With six minutes to go in the first quarter, I told the guys ‘we got 42 minutes left in the game — that’s a lot of time,’” Draymond Green said. “We just continued to fight, and even when they were hitting everything, it still never felt like they were controlling the game. When it’s like that, you’ve got a shot at winning.”

This was not a comeback based on big runs by the Warriors — at least until the 22-5 one to close the game — it was them just being smart and chipping away. That 23 point lead was 14 at the half, and then just six by the end of three. By a few minutes into the fourth the lead had completely evaporated.

What Golden State did was tighten up the sloppy play Walton had talked about. In the first half the Clippers were contesting shots, tipping lazy Warriors passes, and challenging everything. However, the Clippers have struggled to sustain their defensive success this season (they are 24th in the league in defensive efficiency) and as the game wore on the Clippers were not getting out on shooters the same way — and they paid the price for that. Down the stretch, the Warriors shooters were getting good looks, and once the ball started popping and the Warriors are shooting in rhythm the Clippers had no chance.

“We finally got stops and stopped turning the ball over, which starts with me” Curry said of the comeback, and the fourth quarter in particular. “We know the recipe against the Clippers is that you can’t give them easy points. Whether they shoot well or not, that’s what fuels their offense — easy buckets in transition off of turnovers. In the first quarter we let it happen, and there was one little stretch in the fourth where their lead went from three to 10 just from our turnovers.

“Once we started getting good possessions on offense, then we got stops because we were able to set our defense and make it tough on them. Then we were able to make some shots and run away with it.”

The Warriors did what they do — what champions do. If they can knock off Chicago Friday night up in the Bay Area — that’s a tough back-to-back — the schedule opens up a little and the Warriors may not lose until we are well into December.

The Clippers also did what they do — not execute under pressure.

The Clippers with their athletic front line are built to make the Warriors pay for going small, with Draymond Green at the five. They didn’t. The Warriors played their small-ball lineup the final 5:40 of the game and were +17 with it. Griffin had just two shots and one point in the fourth quarter (he finished with 27 points).

“We have got to do a better job playing 48 minutes,” Paul Pierce said. “That’s two games in a row versus these guys where we had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. We have up our lead, so we have to do a better job on defense.”

“We had to make it tougher for them,” Paul said. “As the game went on, they got more and more comfortable. And for guys who can shoot like that, we can’t even give them the opportunity.”

“Down the stretch we just have to be a little more together,” Austin Rivers said. “It’s nobody’s fault, it’s all of us, it’s all of us. We have to trust each other more and to understand that it’s not ‘I have to make the big play,’ it’s we have to make this big play.”

The Clippers are saying all the right things. Of course, they did that last season, too.

The Warriors are doing all the right things. They also did that last season, and it worked out pretty well for them.



Rudy Gay leaves game with shoulder strain, MRI Friday

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The veteran Rudy Gay was trying to back down the rookie Justise Winslow in the third quarter — but Winslow is a strong defender. Period. Not just for a rookie.

Gay spun and tried to go up, Winslow got his arm in there and stripped the ball — Gay suffered what the team would later describe as a shoulder strain. He was grabbing his shoulder, he left the game and did not return. He is set to have an MRI on Friday, according to the team.

He likely misses some time on the Kings’ current road trip, but hopefully this is nothing serious.

Chris Bosh leads Heat past Kings, 116-109

Chris Bosh
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MIAMI (AP) — Chris Bosh had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Miami Heat beat Sacramento 116-109 on Thursday night, taking advantage of Kings star DeMarcus Cousins‘ one-game suspension.

Cousins, averaging 30.8 points in his last five games, was suspended for hitting Atlanta’s Al Horford in the head with a forearm Wednesday night in the Kings’ loss to the Hawks. The Kings are 0-5 without Cousins this season and 11-38 since he joined the team in 2010.

Dwyane Wade added 22 points, and Tyler Johnson had 19 for Miami. The Heat have won four of five during their seven-game homestand that wraps up with games against Philadelphia and New York.

Sacramento’s Rajon Rondo had a season-high 18 assists, 14 points and nine rebounds after having three triple-doubles in his previous four games. He’s averaging 14.2 points, 14.2 assists and 9.8 rebounds in his past five games.

Marco Belinelli led the Kings with 23 points.

The Heat had a 10-point advantage at halftime and an 82-76 edge at end of the third quarter. Unlike their 103-91 loss Tuesday night to Minnesota, which outscored Miami 41-22 in the final quarter, the Heat pulled away from the Kings in the fourth.

Gerald Green and Goran Dragic hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Justise Winslow slammed home a dunk for a quick 8-0 burst and a 97-81 lead. The Kings would get as close as five with a minute left.

Kings forward Rudy Gay strained his left shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. Gay was hurt driving to the basket when Winslow took a swipe at the ball.

Amare Stoudemire sparked the Heat with 10 points off the bench in the first quarter. Stoudemire had not played in the last eight games due to soreness in his knees, but the 33-year-old forward showed flashes of his days when he was a six-time All-Star with a dunk and jumper on back-to-back possessions.


Chris Paul to play vs. Warriors; J. J. Redick “most likely” will not

Chris Paul, Doc Rivers
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LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul, who had missed the last couple Clippers games with a groin strain, will suit up and play against the Golden State Warriors in a much-anticipated showdown on Thursday night.

After playing down his chances the last couple days, Doc Rivers said pregame that Chris Paul had “looked normal, looked great” in practice Wednesday and went through shootaround on Thursday. He was on the court 90 minutes before tip-off at Staples Center going through his usual warmup routine.

CP3 needs to be on the court (and Austin Rivers needs to be coming off the bench) if the Clippers are going to hand the Warriors their first loss of the season. The Clipper offense settles down and is much smarter with Paul running the show — the Clippers score 14.1 more points per 100 possessions when he plays than when he sits. The Clipper defense is also 1.2 points per 100 better when he plays.

The Warriors are off to a 12-0 start. The fastest start for a defending champs in the ’95 Rockets, who started 15-0. If the Warriors win Thursday, they face a difficult back-to-back against the Bulls on Friday.

While CP3 is suiting up, J.J. Redick is “most likely” out for the Clippers, Rivers said. Rivers is still recovering from back spasms. Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton wasn’t buying it, saying he was prepping as if Redick would play — and Redick was on the court 45 minutes before the game getting up some shots. If Redick does not play it means extended minutes for Jamal Crawford, something that could be a defensive challenge for the Clippers against the NBA’s best backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

The Warriors will be without Shaun Livingston, their backup point guard.