ORACLE ARENA — The Human Torch lives.
Stephen Curry had been nearly shut out by the trapping defense of the Clippers, but Sunday he found a way out and potentially saved the series for the Warriors.
Through three games, Los Angeles had stifled the Warriors’ weapons — all of them. So nothing could prepare the Clippers for the onslaught Curry would serve up Sunday afternoon.
With 17 first quarter points, Curry led the Warriors to a 20-point lead that was too much for the Clippers to recover from for the rest of the game. But he didn’t stop after the opening frame.
Blocking shots, stealing the ball, forcing turnovers and running around perfectly placed picks, Curry controlled the game. He underscored his dominating play with ferocious roars until the veins on his face became prominent.
Curry finished the game with 33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, followed by the usually offensively quiet Andre Iguodala, who shocked the Clippers with 22 points and nine assists.
Though he said the team played with more urgency and everything was clicking in a broad sense, Curry admitted that he was more aggressive when looking for his shots and it worked:
“We tried to come out with a sense of urgency. We moved the ball well and guys set great screens…but yeah I was looking for any space I could get.”
Head coach Mark Jackson made changes to the lineup, mixed substitutions and shortened the rotation, catching the Clippers off guard en route to a 118-97 victory to even the series 2-2.
Jackson started Draymond Green in place of Jermaine O’Neal, taking the smaller approach to start the game. The move added a frustrater to the Clippers front court and essentially took DeAndre Jordan out of the game (zero points, six rebounds).
Blake Griffin told SFBay the Warriors’ lineup change wasn’t what affected the game, it was that Golden State wanted to win more than the Clippers did:
“I thought they came out with the right attitude and I thought we didn’t. From the beginning they played with patience, they played with force. They did the things that we wanted to do.”
Golden State upping the ante wasn’t the only thing that knocked the Clippers off their game. The last 24 hours have been a nightmare for the rising Los Angeles franchise.
Late Friday night, TMZ released an audio recording — allegedly of Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend — in which Sterling makes multiple racist remarks.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said before the game Sunday that he didn’t know if the team was mentally prepared for the game:
“They’ve been pulled in a million directions in the last 24 hours and that’s a fact …The basketball preparation is done. For sure, I don’t think any of this has taken away from that. The mental preparation on the other hand, I just honestly, I just don’t know.”
After the game Rivers took responsibility for the how his team played and why they weren’t prepared to withstand the Warriors run.
But Clippers guard Chris Paul disagreed, telling SFBay the people to blame were on the court:
“Doc can’t score a basket, he can’t stop Steph Curry or Klay Thompson or anything like that…it started with me, early in the game letting [Curry] get loose and letting him get going.”
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series will be played in Los Angeles, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on TNT, with Game 6 Thursday in Oakland at 7:30 p.m..
Golden State’s 39-point first quarter was the highest scoring quarter by any team in the postseason so far. … Golden State turned the ball over 15 times today, after averaging 22 through the first three games of the series. … Stephen Curry finished with a team playoff season-high 33 points to go with seven assists and seven rebounds (playoff career-high) for the fourth 30-point game of his postseason career, hitting a postseason career-high seven threes. … Andre Iguodala finished with a playoff season-high 22 points to go with nine assists and four rebounds while shooting 6-of-8 from the field in 42 minutes. The Warriors are 4-0 when he scores 20-plus points.