SoundThe gallery will resume inseconds
Show Caption of
LOS ANGELES — The break did the Clippers good, as Coach Tyronn Lue thought it might when he suggested that the six days between games might’ve come “at kind of a perfect time.”
Refreshed and refocused, the Clippers opened up the second half of the season by rolling over Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, 130-104, on Thursday night at Staples Center.
There were no echoes of the teams’ last meeting in January, when the Clippers (25-14) let the Warriors up off the mat and they rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit to win. This time, the lead-footed Clippers cruised to a runaway victory that put an end to the three-game slide they’d taken into the All-Star break.
The Clippers scored more points in the third quarter – 45 – than Golden State (19-19) could muster in the first half, when they put up just 43 points, the fewest by a Clippers opponent before halftime this season.
The most impressive part of Thursday’s victory, Kawhi Leonard said, was that Golden State mustered just 17 points in second quarter.
“Obviously defense, you know what I mean?” Leonard said. “If we can hold a team to 17 points I feel like we’re going to win every game.”
Before Lue emptied his bench in the second half, his All-Stars Leonard (28 points, nine rebounds) and Paul George (17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals) did their requisite damage in 31 and 27 minutes, respectively.
Lou Williams chipped in with 14 points in 14 minutes off the bench, efficiency that caught even Lue by surprise; he knew the Clippers’ in-house professional scorer went 5 for 7 from the field, but he didn’t realize that he scored so many in so few minutes: “A point per minute, that’s pretty good.”
A purpose-driven Serge Ibaka set the tone with nine of the Clippers’ first 14 points, a precursor for his fifth double-double as a Clipper: the center finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds in 23 minutes.
“After the last game before the All-Star break, the way we end up the road trip, it was not the right way,” Ibaka said. “And then personally, things didn’t go my way, like it was supposed to … So to me it was important to come be there for my teammates, and set the tone. And just to let them know, like, ‘Listen, whatever happened in the last game, it’s not who we are.’ So, it’s one of those nights.”
All of the Clippers who suited up Thursday saw the court, and collectively they shot 18 for 41 from 3-point range and held the Warriors to 9 makes on 36 3-point attempts.
The Clippers also enjoyed a rare edge on fastbreak points, 15-14 — and that quite pleased Lue: “I don’t know the last time we had that.”
L.A. also scored 24 points off Warriors turnovers while taking care of the ball itself, finishing with just 11 giveaways (six of which came in the first quarter).
“It’s been an emphasis to take care of the ball as well,” Leonard said. “So we just gotta keep improving, you know what I mean? We’re not where we want to be. I think we got a lot of growth.”
Reggie Jackson said it’s a good thing that his team is just scratching the surface, considering they ended the night fewer than four games out of first place in the Western Conference.
“We have a long way to grow, which is very fortunate for us, being fourth right now I believe in the West,” said Jackson, who finished with five points, six rebounds, four assists and started the second half in place of Patrick Beverley, who left the game after 11 minutes with right knee soreness.
“Still with time to figure each other out, to figure out what we want to be doing necessarily defensively in certain situations as well offensively,” Jackson went on. “Our core has been together since last year, for most of it, and then we’re still like I said building continuity, figuring each other out, but it’s good to know that we still have strides and leaps to grow but that we’re playing this well right now, to this point.”
Beverley’s injury clouded an otherwise jolly return for the Clippers. Their emotional leader missed eight games earlier this season with right knee soreness, a span in which the team went 4-4. Lue said he didn’t know whether Beverley would go on the Clippers’ upcoming road trip.
To start the game Thursday, L.A. bolted to a 14-5 lead, but the Warriors reeled the Clippers back in early: Despite 14 early points from Leonard and only three from Curry, the Clippers’ advantage entering the second quarter was just 28-26.
But then the Clippers, wiser for having watched Eric Paschall trouble backup center Ivica Zubac in their last meeting, threw a zone at Golden State in the second quarter, and it effectively disrupted the Warriors.
L.A. also started to find its way to the free-throw line in the second quarter, shooting 8 for 10 from the stripe after making their only two attempts in the first quarter, when the Warriors were assessed only three fouls – five fewer than in the second period.
That trend continued in the second half, when even George – who has had a difficult time drawing fouls for much of the season, including in the early going Thursday – frequented the foul line.
The Clippers finished the game 24 for 29 at the stripe; George went 4 for 5 – all of his shots at charity coming in the third quarter.
George also found himself elevated onto a higher rung on the NBA’s all-time 3-pointers made list: His first 3 of the game, with 2:44 to play before halftime, was the 1,686th of his career, moving him past Steve Nash for sole possession of 25th on the NBA’s career 3-pointers made list.
The Clippers sprinted further ahead after the break, riding a 13-3 run to 72-46 advantage with 10:06 remaining in the third quarter.
That left Curry (14 points on 6-for-16 shooting, including 1 for 8 from deep) imploring his side – “C’mon! C’mon!” the baby-faced assassin told his teammates during a timeout, fists clenched – as the Clippers continued to bury 3-pointers, as they’re apt to do.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr had that part of the Clippers’ attack highlighted in his scouting report – likely a thick document, judging by how the coach spoke about his opponent Thursday.
“They’re an interesting team,” Kerr said before tip-off. “They are the best 3-point shooting team in the league, a great two-way team, balancing offense and defense with tremendous personnel led by Kawhi and Paul George of course. Got a great roster, great coach, they are one of the best teams in the league.
“We are going to have to go out and play extremely well.”
They didn’t play nearly well enough Thursday.