ORACLE ARENA — The Los Angeles Clippers walked into the screaming sea of yellow that was Oracle and silenced the crowd, capturing Game 3 and regaining the home court advantage.
The Clippers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, finishing the Warriors 98-96 Thursday night.
The Warriors finally found a way to avoid a slow start against the Clippers. Defense.
But a slow start in the third quarter doomed their chances to close out the game.
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said his team runs into problems when they get out of character. And in the third quarter, they were out of character:
“We’ve turned the ball over, taken bad shots. We’ve allowed them to get it going in transition. We’ve gone away from the game plan discipline. We’re not good enough to do that and win.”
Golden State had trouble coming up with offense in the first half — David Lee going 4-for-10 and Curry hitting just one field goal — though defense and rebounding kept L.A. from running away with the game.
The Clippers opened up a nine point lead in the second quarter, 46-37, but when Curry scored his first bucket of the game on a fast-break lay-in, the Warriors turned up the volume.
In the closing minute of the half, Klay Thompson and Green exchanged passes, confusing the Clippers defense and leaving Thompson open for three.
On the other end Warriors deep-reserve Hilton Armstrong held Blake Griffin at bay while Draymond Green blocked Matt Barnes’ shot.
Curry came away with the rebound and raced to the other end only to be tripped by Chris Paul who picked up a technical foul. With Curry hitting free throws, the Warriors went into halftime down by just three points at 46-43.
Opening the second half, Griffin’s jumper clicked as he went on a 10-0 run of his own, followed by the Warriors falling apart with no way to stop the bleeding against the Clippers big men.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said Griffin continues to add elements to his game that make him unstoppable:
“He’s been great. He’s making jump shots and the bank shot that he’s added to the game, facing the basket has just taken him to a different level because he’s very difficult now to guard.”
With 6:37 left in the third quarter, the Clippers were up 63-37.
Los Angeles continued to push and extended its lead to 18 points in the third quarter, and, with Game 2 memories lingering, the scene looked too familiar. But Green wouldn’t quit.
Green threw down a two-handed slam and, while he hung from the rim, DeAndre Jordan reached to pull him down and the two were separated by officials. Green was called for a flagrant foul on the next possession but his energy ignited the team.
Humbly, Green wouldn’t take credit for sparking the Warriors run. He said it doesn’t matter how the refs call the game because the Warriors control their own destiny:
“We have to make sure we control what we can control and that’s us. That’s getting stops on the defensive end and not turning the ball over.”
Green assisted, rebounded and had another slam dunk as the Warriors cut the Clippers lead into single digits. The Warriors continued to chip away at the Clippers lead in the final frame, finally coming within one point after consecutive buckets from Thompson.
The Clippers had an answer though, his name is Chris Paul. Paul pulled the Clippers ahead in the final minutes and defended the failed last-second efforts of Curry.
The series now stands with Los Angeles in front 2-1 , with Game 4 slated for Sunday at Oracle at 12:30 p.m.
Golden State shot 6-of-13 (.194) from three-point range, the team’s lowest shooting percentage from distance in the playoffs since hitting .188 from distance on May 1, 1994 at Phoenix. … Draymond Green totaled 13 points and a playoff career-high 11 rebounds to go with three steals and foul blocks before fouling out in 33 minutes for his second career double-double in the playoffs. He becomes the first Warriors reserve in team postseason history to post a double-double with at least three steals and four blocks. … Blake Griffin totaled 32 points and eight rebounds while shooting 15-of-25 from the field, becoming the first Clipper to score 30-plus in back-to-back postseason games since Elton Brand did so in four-straight during the 2006 playoffs. Griffin is the first Warriors opponent to post 30-plus in consecutive playoff games since Karl Malone did so with the Jazz in the first Round of the 1989 Playoffs.