Despite a combined 91 points from Kevin Durant (45), Stephen Curry (24) and Klay Thompson (22), the Golden State Warriors fell short of a Game 5 win over the L.A. Clippers, instead taking a 129-121 loss in their home court of Oracle Arena once again.
Durant shined, but others struggled, especially on defense, where this team used to carve its living. Yet their worst mistake was to do something they hadn’t done in their four previous years of playoff contention.
These are 5 Clutch Points from Game 5 of this first round series:
The Lou & Trez Show + defensive woes
The Warriors would not get away with yet another night off from the NBA’s darling bench duo, as Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were right back to haunting the Golden State second unit, this time combining for 57 points in Game 5.
Williams’ team-high 33 points concretized in a sharp 12-of-19 shooting performance, including 8-of-9 from the foul line and 10 assists to go with it. Harrell was a destroyer, as usual — letting the Warriors know about every dunk and runaway bucket he could get his hands on, finishing 11-of-14 from the floor for 24 points.
Lou ➡️ Harrell pick and roll to perfection
Clips answer Dubs run with 7-0 run pic.twitter.com/n1MycAtBfs
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) April 25, 2019
The Clippers had 54 points in the paint, most of them easy, which explains the near 10% lead in field goal percentage shooting over a vastly more talented roster.
The Warriors looked sloppy from the start, failing to close out on shooters and unaware of backdoor cuts and rim runs.
The Warriors posted a 112.5 defensive rating in this series, much worse than an already disappointing 108.5 regular season rating, which was only 11th-best in the league, after several years of ranking in the top-five in this category.
“Usually if it’s focus, for us, we have a lot of turnovers,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “We had 31 assists and eight turnovers. So offensively we were fine. It’s just defense. We just did not defend. And the playoffs are all about defense.”
Looking too far ahead
Golden State admittedly broke their cardinal rule of living in the moment, and looked ahead into the upcoming series against the Houston Rockets, who finished off their series against the Utah Jazz, taking a 4-1 win right before tip-off.
“Yup,” said Klay Thompson when asked if the Warriors looked too far ahead. “Started with me. I was. I thought we’d come out and win tonight. Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned.”
The Warriors did this in Game 2 of the series, as they blew a 31-point lead in a quarter-and-a-half, allowing for a raging Clippers comeback at home. They did it again on Wednesday night, allowing the Clippers to control the tempo.
This audacity came back to bite them, as they squandered a brilliant 45-point night from Kevin Durant (14-of-26 from the field, 5-of-12 from deep, 12-of-12 from the foul line) through 41 minutes.
Durant was locked in and constantly got the Warriors back on the horse, but the collective effort just wasn’t there, especially on defense, where it needed to be. Trailing by 10 to start the fourth quarter, Durant took it upon himself to help close the gap, burying this wing 3-pointer and the harm.
four point play 💦
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 25, 2019
Shots like this were wasted by a team that looked forward to a series they had yet to qualify for.
The Warriors have taken notice of the Rockets already looking for a rematch against them, but that rematch won’t happen until they seal this series, now having given their biggest rivals for the title an extra two days of rest.
If the defending champions win Game 6 on the road on Friday, their Western Conference Semifinals will start on Sunday — giving them only one full day to rest.
Stephen Curry out of sync, again
For once in this entire series, Curry was not mired in foul trouble throughout the game, but he did seem out of sync after the Clippers made it a point to face-guard him through each of his 38 minutes on the floor.
Curry rebounded from a 12-point dud in Game 4 and put up 24 points, shooting an effective 7-of-15 from the floor, 4-of-5 from deep, and a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line.
So what is the issue?
For starters, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers (to his credit) has made a special effort to stop Curry from catching fire. At times it might be a Curry uncontested three or maybe two consecutive baskets in the paint that force Rivers to call a timeout and pause the momentum.
Truth be told, the Curry Flurry effect is very real at home or on the road — capable of making Oracle Arena explode, as well as silencing a road crowd like no other player does.
Curry’s long bombs can be just as deflating as a 10-0 run, and that is because when the ball is in his hands, just about everyone on that floor knows there’s more where that came from.
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) April 25, 2019
But as it sits, there hasn’t been any semblance of a Curry explosion and no means to force one either.
Playing Curry on the ball would make him more prone to offensive fouls and turnover against physical guards like Patrick Beverley, while playing him off the ball, as he has throughout this series, results in a marathon series with plenty of his movement impeded as he weaves through screens.
There is no clear tactical answer as to how to “activate” Curry, but once he gets in the groove, the margin of error will get a lot more forgiving for the Warriors.
Doc Rivers’ Game 3 adjustment at halftime reflected a change he would make for the rest of this series, as replacing the less-mobile Ivica Zubac for an athletic forward capable of shooting the ball in JaMychal Green has proved a boon for the Clippers.
Green fouled out 18 seconds into the fourth quarter, but he had already dealt his damage with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
This forced a once-effective Bogut to be replaced by a more athletic Kevon Looney, while forcing Draymond Green into more minutes at the five-spot.
“He made three 3s tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said of JaMychal Green. “So they’re able to space us out a little bit better. They’ve done a nice job making some adjustments, but they made that adjustment last game, too, and we handled it.”
If Kerr is fortunate, there won’t be more Green vs. Green in Game 6 — but that could be wishful thinking, as the hybrid big man has shot 58% from deep this series, making 11-of-19 from deep in five encounters.
What’s to come?
The Warriors seem more focused to getting the job done after this disappointing loss, as a head-down Klay Thompson told reporters there’s no way from building from this game, given how it went.
“Shoot, ain’t no building. Just go do what we do,” said Thompson. “Build from this game? This game sucked. We lost. Let’s go win on Friday. Let’s win big. Let’s friggin’ win by 30, like we’re capable of. …I’m excited for Friday.”
Klay Thompson: “Shoot, ain’t no building. Just go do what we do. Build from this game? This game sucked. Let’s go win Friday. Let’s win big. Let’s go win by friggin’ 30.” pic.twitter.com/lTCmYg0ls0
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 25, 2019
Golden State will have the home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, but they have already given the Rockets the rest advantage coming into the upcoming series, which could be just as important.
The Warriors have been surprisingly much better on the road than prior versions of this team, and if they can replicate the same level of focus as Games 3 and 4, they will finally be able to look at the real test ahead.