Warriors have rivals’ number: 10
oakland, calif. — It looked as if this time, finally, might be different for the Los Angeles Clippers. Playing without their leader, Chris Paul, and playing against the team that had embarrassed them time and time again over the past three years, the Golden State Warriors, the Clippers finally looked as if they belonged on the court with their Northern California rivals.
Instead, this turned out to be the latest example of what this “rivalry” has become: a never-ending rerun of Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football, only to have Lucy rip it away at the last moment. Only this time, the last moment was the third quarter, and the result was yet another humiliating loss for Los Angeles.
With 50 third-quarter points — including a combined 35 on 12-for-16 shooting between Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — the Warriors steamrolled the Clippers in perhaps the most embarrassing fashion yet, a 123-113 victory that made it 10 straight wins for Golden State over Los Angeles, dating from Christmas of 2014.
“They’re crushing us right now,” J.J. Redick said afterward. “We need to be mentally tougher against them.”
The Clippers have been saying some variation of that phrase for over two years now. No matter who is on the court or where these teams play, the result is the same: the Warriors preening and prancing their way to victory.
This one, though, was a special brand of beatdown — even as far as this series of never-ending beatdowns goes. The Warriors, by their own admission, came out flat, plodding through the first half looking like a team fat and happy after spending time on vacation or, for the team’s four all-stars and its coaching staff, in New Orleans.
“We weren’t competitive,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said, “and we weren’t very smart.”
Sleepwalking, as Golden State did throughout the first half Thursday, has been a common affliction this season, despite compiling an NBAbest 48-9 record entering Saturday while posting the league’s best offense and second-best defense. The Warriors often lollygag their way through games — at least until they find some spark, some reason to kick themselves into gear.
The Clippers gave them the first one, when they goofed off at the end of the second quarter and allowed a 16-point advantage to drop to 12 by halftime, setting an ominous tone for the second half ahead, particularly considering the absence of Paul, their star point guard, who is continuing to recover from thumb surgery.
Once Golden State predictably started the third quarter strong, it got the final motivation it needed from the referees. The Warriors picked up several ticky-tack calls early in the quarter, including one on Draymond Green that resulted in a technical foul, a near-ejection and a shouting match with Kerr that both downplayed afterward.
It only takes a sliver of momentum to ignite the Warriors into the kind of inferno that no current team can stop and that few — if any — of the all-time-great squads could truly contend with. Combining the Warriors’ hatred for the Clippers (which remains real) and their palpable contempt for Thursday’s refereeing crew was like lighting a box full of matches and throwing them into a bucket of gasoline.
The result was a 12-minute-long heat check, the likes of which have rarely been seen in recent seasons. It offered a reminder of what Durant signed up for when he joined the Warriors and a look at the kind of firepower they would have at their disposal.
Make no mistake: The Clippers are a good team, even without Paul. Many teams would kill to have pieces like Griffin, Redick and DeAndre Jordan on their rosters. But they might as well have not been there during Thursday night’s third quarter.
Golden State’s numbers were staggering: 50 points on 17-for-23 shooting (73.9 percent) and 9 for 15 (60 percent) from three-point range, picking up 13 assists and committing just three turnovers. Meanwhile, the Clippers looked like a team that knew what it was: thoroughly outmanned and outgunned by someone it has long considered a rival but who no longer gives it the time of day. “It was pretty spectacular,” Green said. He was speaking of the third quarter as a whole, but he could have been focused specifically on Curry’s closing run, which was a sight to behold. He finished the quarter with 20 overall, including 17 in the final 3:37 as he single-handedly powered a 21-9 run that put the game away for good, capped off by his dazzling turnaround jumper over the outstretched arms of Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford that dropped through the hoop as the buzzer sounded.
With that, Oracle Arena could have been home to a religious revival, as Curry leapt into the air and gave a snarl for the home fans as they lost themselves in the latest moment of his greatness. Suddenly, the rout was on again, and a contest that had been lopsided in the Clippers’ favor 13 game minutes earlier was already a wrap for the Warriors, for that 10th time in a row.
“You’ve got to carry it through,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “Golden State is a good team. You can’t play one half.”
The games come and go between these two teams, but the story never changes. Or at least the narrative arc of the story doesn’t change. Every time, the Warriors set up the football, just like Lucy does. And, every time, the Clippers storm after it, just like Charlie Brown — and find themselves swinging and missing every time.
Whether the Clippers play well for one half or no halves, one quarter or three quarters, the result is the same: They simply can’t hang with the Warriors. For 23 minutes Thursday night, it looked as if that might finally change.
Then reality set in, the Warriors yanked that football away, and the Clippers found themselves in the same position they’ve been in time and again: on the ground and embarrassed, wondering how they had found themselves here once again.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant combined for 35 points in the third quarter Thursday against the Clippers, turning a deficit into a Golden State rout.