Heading into Game 2 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors in Southern California on Monday night, it was readily apparent that the home team was in must-win mode. The Clippers simply couldn’t afford to fall down 2-0 at home before heading up north in the hostile environement that Oracle Arena brings with it.
For their part, the Warriors had to believe heading into the series that splitting in Los Angels was a win. It was rather obvious watching things unfold that the team in a must-win mode showed up to the Staples Center, while the road-tripping Warriors seemed content with heading back to Oakland tied at one.
The Clippers, who lost only seven games at home during the regular season, wouldn’t be upended for a second consecutive game in that arena in the postseason. It just wasn’t going to happen…and we knew that from the opening tip.
Golden State turned the ball over a whopping 26 times as the Clippers continually put pressure on the ball handler. They committed 33 fouls to the Clippers 22, shot just 21.1 percent from the three-point line and put up 11 less assists than their rivals down south.
Series is tied, 1-1. pic.twitter.com/v1k5e2w69f
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) April 22, 2014
All of that indicated that the Warriors weren’t even competitive on Monday night, and that’s exactly what the final result was. Los Angeles won be a franchise-playoff record 40 points in one of the most dominating playoff performances in recent NBA history. Blake Griffin scored a playoff career-high 35 points on on 13-of-17 from the field.
At one point in the second quarter, Stephen Curry was tasked with going up against Griffin on a switch. However ridiculous that was to begin with, absolutely no help came from and of the Warrios big’s. The end result was an easy bucket for Griffin. In a vacuum, this was probably the point that Warriors backers knew Game 2 wasn’t to be.
One look at Griffin’s shot chart and you can tell just how dominating he was in this game, one game after he was limited to 19 minutes due to foul problems.
Interestingly enough, Griffin didn’t commit one foul in this game. The ultimate conclusion that was drawn priot to the game was that Griffin would play soft on the defensive side of the ball in order to stay on the court and maintain his ability to put the ball in the hoop on the offensive side of the ball. That didn’t happen. Warriors power forward David Lee put up just 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting in just 20 minutes of play.
For his part, Curry scored his first points late in the second quarter and only tallied one field-goal attempt in the initial stanza. While he did put up 20-plus points in the second half, it was way too little, way too late. The other half of Golden State’s “Splash Brothers” tandem, Klay Thompson, attemped just four shots and scored seven points in 20 minutes of play.
It became increasingly evident that Mark Jackson was content on the Warriors taking a major hit on Monday night in order to preserve some of his key players heading into Game 3 on Thursday at Oracle. Curry put up the most minutes among starters with 31, while Thompson, Lee and Jermaine O’Neal tallied a combined 55 minutes on the hardwood. In a sign that it was over relatively early, Golden State’s bench played 125 combined minutes, as its starters tallied an accumulative -97 on the all important +/- scale.
Griffin might have been the high-point man for the Clippers, but they received balanced scoring throughout the roster. A total of nine players put up nine-plus points with both Chris Paul and Darren Collison dishing out 10 assists apiece.
In the end, Los Angeles could do no wrong. It shot over 50 percent from the field, 48 percent from the three-point line, 32-of-35 from the charity stripe and turned the ball over just 13 times on the night.
Despite this dominating overall performance, the Clippers did not achieve their goal of heading into Game 3 in Oakland with a 2-0 series lead. Instead, Golden State, by virtue of the Game 1 victory, still possesses home-court advantage. It if wins out at home, it will be advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.
Unfortunately, Mark Jackson’s club has been up and down at home this year. They need to maintain home-court in order to pull of the upset. Game 2 was just that, one game, but momentum is clearly on the Clippers side. Can Golden State take it back in front of what promises to be an electric atmosphere Thursday? That may very well dictate the outcome of the series.
Photo: Richard Mackson, USA Today