Any late-season game between teams with identical records aiming for NBA playoff position should, for the sake of competitive justice, be close and decided by each roster’s certified elite.
Stephen Curry’s Warriors and Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers complied Wednesday night at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Curry won the battle, but the Warriors lost the game, 134-126, a result that extended Golden State’s road losing streak to nine and gave Los Angeles a 2-2 season tie.
Although Curry finished with 50 points, Leonard had 30 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals — and a more productive supporting cast.
Here are three observations from a game in which the Warriors edged the Clippers (55.7% to 47.9) but were largely beaten in three key categories: 20-11, second-chance points, 27-11 and rebounding in the fourth quarter, 14-6.
There was no third quarter magic this time around for the Warriors, but there was plenty for Curry.
A day after turning 35, Steph came out of halftime, strapped his teammates to his well-defined back and tried to carry them to triumph. Playing all 12 minutes, he scored 21 of his 50 points, shooting 9 of 11 from the field, including 3 of 4 from deep.
Meanwhile, his teammates scored 14 points on 6 of 14 shots, including 2 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Curry shot 20 of 28 from the field, including 8 of 14 from deep, but the Warriors fell to 8-4 when he scored at least 50 points.
Curry during the game tied Wilt Chamberlain for most games by at least 50 points with seven, became the first player in NBA history to collect 10,000 points in 3-point shooting, and the 33rd player to record in the least 600 games with at least 20 points.
Draymond loses a tough battle
Draymond Green committed his 15th technical foul more than a month ago on Feb. 13 against the Washington Wizards.
The Warriors, noting Draymond’s story, believed there would be no 16th technical foul, which crosses the threshold of tolerance. It comes with a one-game suspension, which Green had previously managed to avoid.
Until he was pushed from behind by Russell Westbrook as he positioned himself for a possible rebound and fought back. After Ivica Zubac’s shot fell through the net, the ball headed towards Draymond, who caught it and pushed it into the side of Westbrook’s header.
Referee Karl Lane whistled, assessing the fateful technical foul.
Seconds after the Green-Westbrook trade, Marcus Morris Sr. forcefully grabbed Draymond and threw him to the ground, resulting in a flagrant-2 and automatic ejection for Morris.
Technical fouls can be waived in league review, but it’s likely Draymond will sit out Friday night when the Warriors face the Hawks in Atlanta.
Good sequence, short life
To achieve their goal of consistency throughout the season, the Warriors have recently focused on early defense in hopes of weeding out bad first quarters that have been a habit.
Their goal was to create leads in the first quarter. They’ve accomplished that in each of the last two games, both home wins.
The Warriors fell short in this game. They were great early on, taking an 8-1 lead while forcing six straight missed goals, but the Clippers responded with their own defense and that changed everything.
The Warriors scored just 15 points in the quarterfinal 9:30, while the Clippers had 27, shooting 58.8% in that span.
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That left the Warriors in the second quarter trailing 28-23, the first time they’ve fallen behind in the first quarter since, well, their last road game last Thursday in Memphis.
Good leads for the two-game streak. Some bad habits die hard.
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