Down 31 with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers were looking for a repeat performance from their historic Game 2 comeback.
The Golden State Warriors were having none of it.
The Warriors came out and punched the Clippers in the mouth to start Game 3 and, unlike Game 2, they never took their foot off the gas. They led by as many as 24 points in the first half before they pushed that lead to 36 in the second and cruised to an easy 132-105 victory.
With Stephen Curry in foul trouble, Kevin Durant led the way for Golden State with 38 points, including 27 in the first half, to go along with seven assists. Curry finished with 21 points.
A poor game from the Los Angeles starters doomed the Clippers from the start. Danilo Gallinari finished with just nine points on two-of-13 shooting, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet combined for just 13. Ivica Zubac finished with 18 points, but 16 of those came in the fourth quarter with the game all but over. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were their usual selves on the offensive end — the pair combined for 31 points on 48% shooting in their limited time on the floor — but it wasn’t enough to stop the Warriors’ onslaught.
In the end, the Clippers waived the white flag just after the start of the fourth, as the final frame served as an educational experience for Gilgeous-Alexander, Shamet, Zubac and the other young guys on the squad.
JaMychal Green Stepping Up
Green was arguably the Clippers best player in the first half — he certainly brought the most energy.
Where the starters looked sluggish, Green had a hop in his step and did as much as he could when the Clippers struggled on offense (which was often). His performance earned him the starting nod over Zubac in the second half and likely a considerable minutes boost in Game 4.
While it was too little too late Thursday night, the type of energy Green brought to the game can be contagious — if he can maintain that energy, the Clippers may be able to avoid another massive blowout going forward.
Green finished with 15 points on six-of-10 shooting with five rebounds.
Another Bad Night for Zubac
After he played just over a combined 19 minutes in the first two games, Zubac managed just four minutes in the first half. While he finished with over 17 minutes played, most of that came in the fourth quarter when the benches cleared.
In his first postseason action, Zubac has been borderline unplayable at times. The defensive lapses and his inability to produce anything on the offensive end have made him an easy target for the Warriors to exploit. While many may have already counted the Clippers out, they are, in fact, still trying to win these games and, until that changes, Zubac’s playtime will continue to be limited.
The young big may have a promising future in Los Angeles, but this short stint is probably best left forgotten, by both Zubac and the fans.
The Rookies No-Show
Gilgeous-Alexander and Shamet both played vital roles in the second half success of this Clippers team, and both played an integral part in their Game 2 comeback.
Neither played showed up in Game 3, however.
Amidst the Warriors suffocating defense, the pair finished with 13 points — nine of which came in the first half — on just two-of-12 shooting. The Clippers have asked a lot of their young starting backcourt — a head-to-head bout with the Warriors All-Star duo chief among them — but they are going to need the two of them to do more if Los Angeles is to get back to their winning ways.
If they can’t manage to pick it back up in Game 4 and 5, the series is already over.
How Much will Ivica Zubac Play in Game 4?
Despite his solid run in garbage time, it seems almost certain that Zubac will cede the starting spot to Green in Game 4. What does that mean for the young center’s playing time going forward?
It’s not great.
Zubac had already seen his minutes reduced, and that trend is likely to continue with Green taking over in the starting lineup. If he can turn in positive stretches against the Warriors reserves that may change, but expect Zubac to play around the 12 or so minutes he has averaged in the series thus far.
What Will the Clippers do about Durant?
While it’s hard for anyone to stop Durant, Pat Beverley had done an excellent job of frustrating him in the first two games of the series, but that changed in Game 3. Going forward, how will Doc Rivers look to limit the superstar scorer?
It may start with Gallinari and Green.
Again, Beverley has done an admirable job on Durant. But, it may be time to hand over the assignment to someone with a little more length to contest the forward. Gallinari and Green could prove capable defenders, as could Garret Temple off the bench.
Not only would this provide Durant with a different defensive look, but it would free up Beverley to stifle Curry or Klay Thompson as well.
Don’t Expect a Different Result, But Expect a Better Showing from the Clippers
The Clippers may find themselves down again in Game 4 — the talent disparity will certainly give the Warriors the upper hand.
But, in possibly their last home game of the season, expect a better effort from the team for the Clipper-faithful. While they may get hit with another loss, don’t expect another blowout, at least not one of this magnitude, on Sunday.