With two upsets in the early window, the Los Angeles Clippers looked to follow suit in their first game against the Golden State Warriors.
While it wasn’t for lack of trying, the Clippers couldn’t keep up with Golden State in the second half and, ultimately, fell to the Warriors 121-104.
Los Angeles fought hard in the first half and went into the break down by just 13. They pulled it close early in the third, but a patented Warriors late-third quarter run, led by Stephen Curry, along with a steady stream of threes in the fourth put the game out of reach.
The Clippers weren’t afraid of the Warriors and never gave up — they made Golden State earn ever bucket — but Los Angeles was outmatched by a team that simply had more talent on the floor.
Montrezl Harrell led the way for the Clippers with 26 points on 11 for 15 shooting to go along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. Lou Williams nearly matched him with 25 on 11 for 21 shooting and added nine assists. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 18.
For the Warriors, Curry led the way with a near triple-double — 38 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists — en route to the most three-point makes in postseason history. Kevin Durant added 23 points of his own, while Draymond Green and Klay Thompson combined to score 29.
Shai Gilegous-Alexander Steady in Playoff Debut
Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t as efficient as he had been to end the regular season, but the rookie had a solid showing in his playoff debut. He finished with 18 points go along with five rebounds, an assist and three blocks. He led the Clippers in minutes played as well.
Gilgeous-Alexander shot three-for-six from three, but finished just six-for-16 overall. That will have to change if the Clippers are to have a chance to win a game in this series, let alone do the unthinkable and upset the reigning champs. Still, things could have gone worse for him in his first postseason game in a matchup with Curry, arguably the best point guard in the NBA right now.
If he can build on this performance, this series may not be all for naught as a thumping by the defending champs might seem — the experience could prove a boon to the Clippers and Gilgeous-Alexander’s future.
The Bench Played As Advertised
Harrell and Williams did what they have done all season long — they both got buckets. The game’s two leading scorers behind Curry, both combined to score 51 of the Clippers’ 65 bench points.
If Los Angeles is to steal a game, these two will have to continue to dominate when on the floor. A healthy dose of Williams-Harrell pick-and-pop has worked all season, a trend that continued in Game 1; it will be interesting to see if Doc Rivers can pick up on that and run the offense through them as often as possible.
Short Leash for Ivica Zubac
Ivica Zubac has been great for Los Angeles in his short time with the Clippers, but the young big had a very short leash in Game 1.
After a defensive lapse early in the first quarter, Rivers called a timeout and made it a point to dig into his third-year center. Afterward, Zubac played sparingly, finishing with just over 10 minutes played.
Zubac may be inexperienced, but he can still make a positive impact for the Clippers. Demarcus Cousins may be over his Achilles injury, but it has still left him a step slow from what he was a season ago — Zubac isn’t as talented as Cousins, but he can certainly take advantage of that fact when they are matched up, whether he be looking to score or set things up for his teammates out of the post.
How Zubac responds to Game 1 and what Rivers did could be the difference between more minutes or a repeat scenario in Game 2.
Can Patrick Beverley Keep His Head in Game 2?
Patrick Beverley has always been a feisty, fiery defender. But, in this series, he has to keep his cool; the Clippers can’t afford to have their best defender watching from the locker room.
Of course, if Los Angeles is trading Beverley to get Durant out of the game, as it was in Game 1, they might reconsider. Still, going up against Curry and Thompson, two of the NBA’s most lethal shooters, they are far better off with Beverley available to hound them and make it difficult.
So, can Beverley keep his cool in Game 2? He and Durant were ready to go at one another when they got tossed — and the Warriors have their own firey hothead that could instigate in Green — so it’s anyone’s guess if the bad blood and emotion will carry over to Monday.
Can Landry Shamet Step Up?
Landry Shamet has looked like a steal since he came over in the Tobias Harris trade, but the rookie two-guard had a rough go of it in Game 1.
Shamet finished just one-for-six with three points and two assists. The Clippers need him, along with some other starters, to do a bit more on the offensive end if they want to steal a game. But can he?
Shamet, a rookie, is already in a tough matchup with Thompson, one of the best defenders in the NBA. But Shamet has done more than enough in his first season to prove himself a capable, if not deadly, shooter; with some more touches, and a bit of wizardry from Rivers, he should be able to turn it around in Game 2.
Expect More of the Same on Monday
Game 2 is set to tip off Monday night, but expect more of the same from Game 1. The Clippers will fight hard, as they have all season, but the Warriors are just too talented for them to contend with. Expect them to head back to Los Angeles down 2-0.