Culture of Hoops

Warriors hot start too much for emotionally drained Clippers in Game 4

Image courtesy of Matthew Addie/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Matthew Addie/Flickr.

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, rolling the Los Angeles Clippers by a final score of 118-97. The Warriors got the big Game 4 victory that they needed, tying the series at 2-2 as it heads back to Los Angeles on Tuesday for Game 5.

Curry, who had been struggling shooting-wise in the first three games of the series, connected on five three-point attempts in the first quarter alone. He finished with 33 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, but most importantly he only turned the ball over twice. It was exactly the kind of performance that the Warriors needed from the face of their franchise. He answered when called upon in a major way.

As for the Clippers, they were clearly distracted by the recent news of their owner Donald Sterling’s alleged racist comments. They did not have the same energy level or team effort as in Games 1 and 2. Heading into warmups, the team collectively took off their Clippers shooting jackets and wore plain red t-shirts instead, making a statement against Sterling and the Clippers franchise as a whole. Not very good timing for the team to want no part of the name on the front of their jersey, but who can blame them?

Foul trouble for both Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan really hurt the Clippers early on. Paul still scored 16 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds, but Jordan finished with zero points and just six rebounds. Golden State did a great job of keeping the Clippers off of the boards, especially offensively. Blake Griffin cooled off a bit scoring 21 points and grabbing six rebounds, with the animated Draymond Green defended him extremely well. Jamal Crawford was the one bright spot for LA. He came alive to score 26 points off the bench, and as usual, showed off his unbelievable ball handling ability.

But much of the story was about Mark Jackson rolling the dice and going with a small Nellie Ball-style lineup. The lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and David Lee was actually their most offensively efficient group during the regular season, so it only made sense to utilize it in the postseason. Even with Thompson getting into early foul trouble and eventually fouling out, the lineup still dominated because of the offensive emergence of Iguodala and the bench play of Harrison Barnes.

Iguodala played arguably his best game as a Warrior, and he couldn’t have picked a better day to do so. He finished with a well-rounded 22 points, nine assists and four rebounds on an efficient 6-for-8 shooting from the field. He was also able to get to the free-throw line 10 times, connecting on eight attempts.

Barnes, who was forced into a much larger role because of the foul troubles of Thompson, stepped up and played 25 big minutes. He scored 15 points, dished out four assists and grabbed a couple of rebounds, but seemed to hit his shots when the team needed them most. He connected on a pair of corner triples late in the fourth quarter to help kill any momentum that the Clippers were gaining. After a year absence, playoff Barnes was back for the Warriors.

Golden State shot a hot 55.4 percent from the field compared to the Clippers 42.9 percent. The Warriors also connected on 15 three-pointers at 46.9 percent. Los Angeles was just 10-for-31 from long range. Once again, you live by the three, you die by the three.

With the series now tied up at two games apiece, Game 5 in Staples Center will be huge. In a seven game series, that 3-2 advantage is usually lethal. It will be interesting to see how the Clippers respond to their first home game since this most recent Sterling incident. If they were distracted on the road, it’s not going to get any easier at home.

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