In easily the most intriguing NBA Playoff series thus far, the Los Angeles Clippers lead the Golden State Warriors three games to two heading into a pivotal Game 6 matchup in Oakland on Thursday evening. Just a few hours after commissioner Adam Silver announced that he had banned Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling for life due to his racist comments, the Clippers banded together to hold homecourt against the cross-state Warriors.
It was an inspired performance by the Clippers, especially with what they have had to deal with since news broke about Sterling’s comments on Friday evening. DeAndre Jordan, who was held without a single point on Game 4, put up a playoff career-high 25 points and grabbed 18 rebounds on 8-of-10 from the field. Meanwhile, Golden State’s biggest offensive weapon, Stephen Curry had only attempted three shots with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter. He finished with just 17 points in the 113-103 loss.
While the Clippers did come out strong in this one, Mark Jackson’s squad rebounded and made a game of it until fizzling out with turnover after turnover down the stretch. That coupled with some questionable plays on defense led to the Warriors current 3-2 series hole.
By no means is this series over. Golden State will host a Clippers team that has won just one team in Oakland since Christmas of 2011. A Golden State win tomorrow would force a decisive Game 7 at Staples Center on Saturday.
Keys for the Warriors
Stephen Curry Looks At Scoreboard pic.twitter.com/e9pTW1PJEs
— 3030 (@jose3030) April 30, 2014
Stephen Curry: Curry needs to be the reason why Golden State wins the final two games of the series and moves on to the Western Conference semifinals. He turned the ball over eight times on Tuesday night while putting up just 10 shots. It doesn’t take a basketball expert to understand that type of performance isn’t going to get it done.
Turnovers: The Warriors might have only turned the ball over 13 times in Game 5 with Curry himself accounting for eight, but they are averaging a whopping 20 turnovers per game in the series. Curry leads the way with about 4.4 per game, while David Lee and Klay Thompson are averaging a combined 5.2 turnovers per outing. That’s an average of nearly 10 turnovers from the big three. In order for Golden State to rebound and win the final two games of the series, it will need to change this immediately.
Foul Trouble: It seems as if Thompson and Lee have been in foul trouble throughout the series. Thompson fouled out of the Warriors Game 4 victory, while Lee has seen his minutes limited in each of the past two games due to recording five fouls per. The Warriors need all hands on deck if they are going to come out on top Thursday and then again on Saturday.
Keys for the Clippers
Continue to Play with Purpose: It seems that Silver’s announcement to ban Sterling for life really lit a fire under the Clippers on Tuesday. That needs to extend all the way up north to Oakland tomorrow if Doc Rivers’ squad wants to close this series out.
Get Scoring From Jordan: We saw first hand on Tuesday just how unstoppable the Clippers can be when DeAndre Jordan is providing something on the offensive side of the ball. He led the Clippers in scoring and they were plus-12 when he was on the court. When Jordan was sitting, Golden State was plus-two. That’s a dramatic difference.
Bench Scoring: Yet another sign that the Clippers are the superior team in this series is the fact that their bench absolutely dominated the Warriors second unit. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison combined for 34 points on 11-of-20 shooting. If they match that outcome on Thursday, the Clippers will be moving on in six. If not, the series will likely head back to Los Angeles for a do-or-die Game 7.
As much as Golden State has trouble with the Clippers in Los Angeles, it appears that Rivers’ team has the same type of issues in Oakland. I fully expect the Warriors to come out and play inspired ball in front of a ridiculously loud arena in Oakland, eventually forcing a Game 7. While that will extend the series to the weekend, Los Angeles just has too much going for it at home and will take this series in seven.
Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA Today