Steph, Dubs prove too much for Clip­pers

The Mercury News - - Front Page - Di­eter Kurten­bach Colum­nist

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.

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