Steph, Dubs prove too much for Clippers
OAKLAND >> Practice makes perfect, and for 82 regular season games, the Warriors practiced apathy against inferior opponents.
And for large portions of Saturday’s playoff opener, they showed off their mastery of the craft.
Golden State — on the whole — played sloppy, disjointed, uninspired basketball to open the postseason. But, as we have seen so many times over the years, those struggles didn’t matter. The Warriors’ talent absolutely overwhelmed the Clippers — the biggest playoff series underdog in the last 30 years of the NBA playoffs.
Specifically, Stephen Curry was too much.
While the scrappy Clippers found a way to go blow-for-blow with the rest of the turnoverprone Warriors’ roster for the first three quarters of the contest, they had no answer for the two-time MVP, who turned in a near-perfect offensive performance in Game 1.
Curry scored 38 points, dished out seven assists, and
pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds in the 121-104 victory, carrying the Warriors when they were struggling and then inspiring them to play better basketball once they were ahead.
It was yet another transcendent performance for the Baby Faced Assassin — a string of escalating highlights that would have gone against the run of play, if not for Curry’s ability to single-handedly define a game at will.
And with each preposterous 3-pointer Curry made (he was 8-for-12 from beyond the arc) and every subsequent and deserved M-V-P chant from the Oracle Arena crowd, you could see a bit more of the Clippers’ spirit break. By the end of the game, with team leader Patrick Beverley in the locker room after being ejected in the fourth quarter and coach Doc Rivers leaning into officials as they walked off the court, there was little to none remaining.
That’s because the Clippers know they missed their shot to turn this series — easily written off as a four-game sweep for the Warriors — on its head. The conditions were perfect. The Clippers threw their best at the Warriors, and Golden State lacked incisiveness for most of the contest.
And despite that, Los Angeles still came up miles short, thanks to two Curryled Warriors runs — short bursts of dominance amid a morass of turnovers and mental lapses — in the second and third quarters.
Technically speaking, the Clippers are still in good position in the best-of-sevengame series, but in a showdown this lopsided, it’s hard to see a path back for them after Saturday’s game.
Because if the Warriors won by 17 points Saturday, what happens when the Warriors make schematic adjustments to what the Clippers showed them in Game 1?
What happens when Kevin Durant, who scored 23 points on 50 percent shooting Saturday, takes full, ruthless advantage of the nearly one-foot size advantage he has on his main mark, the petulant Beverley, and turns in a hyper-efficient offensive game — the kind we’ve seen so often over the last two postseasons?
What happens when Clippers center Montrezl Harrell doesn’t have one of the best games of his career, scoring 24 points in his first 23 minutes of action? What happens if silky guard Lou Williams doesn’t have a great offensive game?
What happens if DeMarcus Cousins, who played in his first playoff game Saturday, stops forcing things on both sides of the court and lets the game simply flow and his talent shine?
What happens when the defensive maestro Draymond Green isn’t arguably Warriors’ second-best offensive player? (Green shot 58 percent and scored 17 points Saturday.)
The likelihood is that the result will look much worse than Saturday’s outcome. And Saturday’s outcome didn’t look very good.
The Warriors have several levels of better basketball yet to play this postseason. The Clippers, on the other hand, do not.
And yet it is Golden State with a 1-0 lead in the series.
The Clippers entered Saturday’s Game 1 as a 100to-1 longshot to win the series. It was such a longshot that, according to ESPN, some sports books weren’t taking bets on the series.
But there is a clear reason the Warriors are such prohibitive favorites in the series. In basketball, talent is the ultimate trump card, and it was proven, once again, on Saturday.
Above: The Warriors’ Draymond Green reacts after scoring and drawing a foul against the Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac during the first quarter of Game 1 of the NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Saturday.
Left: Steph Curry dribbles past the Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the first quarter of Saturday’s game.