With the chants of “Warriors, Warriors” echoing throughout Oracle Arena, the Golden State Warriors found a way to battle through the adversity and defeat the Los Angeles Clippers by a final score of 100-99. In a win or go home situation, the Warriors did just enough to force a Game 7 back in Staples Center on Saturday.
Stephen Curry came out of the gate firing away after only attempting a measly 10 shots in Game 5. He was able to get on the board early, finishing with 24 points on the night but just 9-24 shooting. The key for Curry, however, were his nine assists and just two turnovers after having a career high eight a game before. The Warriors as a team only turned the ball over eight times on Thursday, limiting the Clippers transition game.
Golden State got themselves into some serious foul trouble early on and things appeared to be heading in the wrong direction. But a large team effort helped withstand the blow, lead once again by Draymond Green. Green’s ability to defend Blake Griffin in the post changed the complexity of this series. Griffin was limited to just 17 points on 8-24 shooting and would eventually foul out himself. Green scored 14 points, to go along with 14 rebounds, five steals, four assists and a block. His well-rounded efforts on both ends of the court fueled his teammates as well as Oracle Arena.
Chris Paul was held to only nine points, four rebounds and some serious foul trouble of his own, but the play of Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes almost made up for it. Crawford lead the Clippers in scoring with 19 points and Barnes scored 18, but as a team they shot just 36 percent from the field and 21 percent from long distance.
Golden State was able to get 30 points from their bench, desperately helping their depleted roster. With both David Lee and Draymond Green in foul trouble, Jermaine O’Neal was going to have to be the man to step in and play some big minutes. But just two minutes into his night, Glen “Big Baby” Davis inexplicably lowered his shoulder and chop blocked O’Neal’s knee as he was grabbing a rebound.
“It’s just a dirty play, to be quite honest,” O’Neal stated after the game. “I mean, I’m not going to go try to dive into somebody’s legs. It wasn’t a scramble for the ball. I respect people’s ability to come out and perform and take care of their family based on their bodies. Either he has terrible balance as a pro athlete, or that was a dirty play. God don’t like ugly.”
O’Neal is scheduled for an MRI on Friday and has been listed as day to day with a “sprained knee.” The loss of 35 year old O’Neal would be a huge blow for the Warriors who are already down starting center Andrew Bogut and backup center Festus Ezeli.
Coach Mark Jackson and the Warriors found a way to bounce back on Thursday, using the injury as motivation. Andre Iguodala had one of his best games as a Warrior, leading the team down the stretch when Stephen Curry couldn’t find his shot. Iguodala finished with 15 points, but none was bigger than the and one triple he buried late in the fourth to foul out Blake Griffin and essentially seal the victory.
These California rivals head back to Los Angeles for Game 7 on Saturday. For two franchises not known for success, it will be one of the biggest games in their team’s history. For the Clippers, they will need to shut down both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. They have not caught fire at the same time yet, that has to be in the back of the Clippers minds.
As for the Warriors game plan, they need to keep frustrating Blake Griffin and Chris Paul into early foul trouble. The two stars were obviously irritated on Thursday night, knocking them both off of their A game. However, it will be a tough task for the Warriors to handle as both Griffin and Paul are top 10 players in the NBA. In a Saturday full of Game 7’s, this one looks to be the most promising.