The Warriors may end up winning their first round series against the Clippers comfortably, but that wouldn’t do Doc Rivers’ squad — or the scare they gave the defending champions — proper justice.
Golden State survived a Game 4 scare in Los Angeles, beating the Clippers 113-105 to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
Typically, it takes just one of the Warriors’ patented runs or an explosion from one of their stars to lock down a game. Golden State got one from Klay Thompson early on, opening up a comfortable margin.
But the Clippers, their young core maturing with each passing playoff minute, are too naïve to shrivel up at the sight of mighty Warriors. They had an answer for Thompson’s 27-point first half outburst. They kept up as Kevin Durant railed jumper after jumper from the mid-range. And in the third quarter — typically, the time for the Warriors to run away with the win — the Clippers turned an 8-point deficit into a 5-point lead.
Head coach Steve Kerr said:
“I didn’t think we fully engaged in the game until they took it to us in the third quarter, took the lead. And once that happened, I thought that’s why our guys engaged. We started taking care of the ball and defending at a higher level.”
The Warriors ended the first quarter on a 12-0 run behind Thompson’s 7-of-7 start. He had 17 points in the first alone to give the Warriors a double-digit lead after one. But the lead vanished in the early minutes of the second quarter when the Clippers went on a 13-3 spurt to answer.
Kerr knows the Clippers will not give in just because they are down 3-1:
“I love their team. They’re a young group that fights and scraps and plays together, plays hard … That’s what we’re going to see Wednesday, too.”
Following last week’s 31-point Game 2 collapse, Warriors avoided another embarrassing defeat with a strong fourth quarter. They have superior talent across the board, better shooters and more experience, holding onto the 3-point lead they had at the start of the fourth.
They have Thompson, who bailed out fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry with 32 points. His jumpers in the fourth quarter helped cushion the Warriors advantage, and overcome just 12 points from Curry on 1-of-9 shooting from distance.
“The ball was just finding me. I didn’t do anything special. I was just getting open. See a few go in, all you need is a little space. Just try to get open and shoot that shot.”
They have gritty veterans like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, who stepped up in key moments. They have a sense of the moment, clamping down on defense late in the third and early in the fourth quarters.
Rivers said that the Warriors’ defense is the most undervalued thing about their team:
“They’re long, athletic, they’re smart. They’ve been together forever. There’s nothing you’re going to run that they can’t read.”
And oh, they have Durant, who railed the dagger with less than two minutes to play, a 3-pointer that put the Warriors ahead by 11.
Durant noted that the Warriors have to clamp down defensively and avoid turnovers. At one point, the Clippers outscored the Warriors 18-0 in points off turnovers. Durant said:
“This team is just looking for a crack in the open for us to relax and lay down, just like Game 2. They don’t stop. They’re one of those teams that make you feel them all game. Even when you go home after the game, you’ll still be thinking about them because they’re that tough.”
In this game — and perhaps, in this series — the Warriors’ talent alone was enough to push them over the top. But it took more than just a cakewalk to rid themselves of the pesky Clippers.
The Warriors look to close out the Clippers in Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Wednesday.
Durant passed Hakeem Olajuwon for 13th n the all-time career playoff points list. … The Warriors are 7-0 in playoff games that start at 12:30 p.m. PST since 2015. … Golden State has won 10 of the last 11 games against the Clippers in Los Angeles.