Stephen Curry crossed, split the defenders, and did what he does. Splash.
It was the difference in a game that looked good for the Warriors until halfway through the third quarter, before Golden State regained control in a 112-108 victory Tuesday night.
The game began slipping away from Golden State, incrementally becoming harder to control as Clippers point guard Chris Paul was able to draw timely fouls, and the rest of the Los Angeles roster followed his lead.
Four minutes into the fourth quarter, Paul held the points lead in the game, but his effort to draw fouls also left him with four of his own.
Hand Harrison the ball. That was the plan when the reserves were in to open the fourth, as Iguodala, Barnes and Leandro Barbosa led the Warriors back into the game.
Barnes three, Clippers miss, and another Barnes three got the Warriors back within three. And a Barnes dunk, the feed from Iguodala.
One point game.
Curry, cross to the paint. Warriors lead.
That was the sequence that made the difference in the Warriors win.
Whistles were blown nearly every 20 second for the remainder of the game, and the score changed some. Curry’s late game heroics did not.
As locked in as ever, Curry was an offensive force and defensive menace. Pestering Paul and forward Blake Griffin to the end of it.
The Warriors went small for the final minutes, and applied the hack-a-Jordan technique that has worked so well in the past. Center DeAndre Jordan airballed on his final trip to the line, sunk the second shot, and then Curry hit his seventh three pointer of the game on his 11th attempt.
The reigning league MVP was phenomenal in the final quarter, living up to his moniker “babyface assassin.”
Barnes, too, the fourth-year player going bananas late. 10 points in his final 10 minutes, knocking down clutch shots and staying far away from foul trouble.
The rivalry that has become one of the best in sports now favors Golden State. And the close games are favoring improvement. Especially in the interim coaching department. Shooting guard Klay Thompson said:
“Luke is just very cool, he’s always composed. He didn’t panic, came to the huddle. … Telling us to not let them deflate us. There’s still eight minutes left. We crawled back in it. He was great out there.”
Walton, by all accounts, is not a fiery guy. Competitive, absolutely. But reserved at the same time. He’s taken over for Steve Kerr, who has been unable to coach after multiple offseason back surgeries. His return is unknown.
And while Kerr’s job isn’t in jeopardy, it’s entirely possible that Walton is being watched closely by teams who aren’t confident in their current coaches. Walton might not be long for Golden State.
For now, though, he’s coaching a championship team to a perfect record, and against incredible competition. Wednesday was the first night he actually had to do some coaching. Asked about it, his reserved personality showed up:
“A lot of the coaching comes in practice, to be honest. When the game starts, it’s about players making plays. You obviously try to put them in the best situation as far as lineups and play calls. But a lot of that is done in practice. We have guys who kept their poise out there. They’re obviously battle tested. They responded beautifully down the stretch there in the fourth quarter.”
Clearly having Curry helps a lot. His 31 points sure did, and going 7-for-11 from behind the arc like Curry did Wednesday night, aided the Warriors to the big comeback. Curry scored 13 in the final quarter, playing just over eight minutes and going 3-of-3 from long range.
His two defensive boards didn’t hurt, and neither did Barnes’ late game works.
Barnes played the entire fourth quarter, sunk both of his three-point attempts, scoring 10 points with two rebounds and a block.
The pair were instrumental in bringing Golden State within striking range, and the defense that the Warriors are known for showed up, providing the final nail to hammer home a win.
Walton said that going small was another element that pushed the final tally towards the Warriors:
“It allows us, as long as we can get stops, to really take advantage on the offensive end. Harrison playing (power forward), also you have guys like Blake and DeAndre Jordan who were taught their whole lives to run back on defense to protect the paint. Harrison got a couple of open threes by just, they didn’t have time to get their defense set. That’s the advantage that we know we have, but it all starts with getting stops.”