It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t close. But it was very entertaining if you were a Clippers fan.
In a total reversal of Game 1, the Clippers dominated the Golden State Warriors from the opening tip Monday night at Staples Center to take a 138-98 victory and tie the best-of-seven NBA playoff series at 1-1.
Games 3 and 4 will be in Oakland on Thursday and Sunday.
The game at Staples Center was over by the second quarter when the Clippers pushed their 31-20 lead after the first quarter to more than 20 points. They took a 26-point lead, 67-41, into halftime, and stretched that to a 32-point lead in the fourth. The final quarter was played almost entirely by the reserves on both teams.
The 67 points in the first half and the 138 for the game were both franchise playoff records.
The biggest difference, besides an apparent indifference by the Warriors, was the play of Clippers All-Star power forward Blake Griffin. In Game 1 on Saturday, Griffin sat for most of the first half and half of the fourth quarter with foul trouble, playing less than 20 minutes. On Monday, he was the game’s high scorer with 35 points. He made 13 of 17 shots from the field and made nine of 10 free throws. And fouls? He had zero.
Speaking of free throws, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, whose foul shots can remind of the Roberto Duran nickname “Hands of Stone,” made seven of eight. He finished with 11 points and five blocked shots. It was that kind of night.
Matt Barnes, who didn’t score a basket in Game 1, finished with 13 points. Chris Paul was content to let others score and ended with 12 points, 10 assists and five assists. Reserve point guard Darren Collison had a double-double (10 points, 10 assists).
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 24 points, 20 of those coming in the third quarter.
Despite the beatdown, a team is happy when they can take one of two on the road and that’s exactly what the Warriors did. So, both teams can head north with something to hold on to.
Entering the third quarter the question on a few minds was if the Clippers can blow a 26-point lead. And the answer: Not a chance.
In fact, the Clippers hit the 100-point mark (see Lawler’s Law, and that’s Ralph not Jerry) with 1:27 left in the quarter. And, they took a 32-point lead into the final 12 minutes.
While the Warriors showed a shallow breath of life, they seemed perfectly content with winning one of two on the road.
In fact, it’s a bit of an epidemic in the first round of the NBA playoffs as six of the eight higher-seeded teams gave up home-court advantage by losing one of their first two games. Only Miami and San Antonio did not lose a game in the opening sequence.
The Clippers started to lose some focus midway through the third quarter but a 33-point lead will do that to you. Still, they got it back. Blake Griffin continued to show a strong game scoring 14 points in the quarter, raising his game total to 35.
Stephen Curry, virtually invisible in the first half with only four points, finally started to wake up, scoring 20 points in the quarter for the Warriors.
The only remaining questions in this game are how many minutes Coach Doc Rivers will keep the starters in the game and at what point the Clippers crowd starts heading for the exits. Maybe those questions are actually linked.
OK, you know things are going well for you when this sequence of players make baskets for you at the start of the second quarter:
Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu, Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford (for three), Turkoglu (three), Granger (three) and Granger again. Yeah, the second team missing in the first game has shown up in the second.
Statistics can tell whatever story you want them to, but these probably tell a pretty good tale of why the Clippers held a 26-point lead at halftime.
Turnovers: Warriors 15, Clippers 7
Free throws: Clippers 17 of 20 including DeAndre Jordan making five of six.
Fouls: Warriors 19, Clippers 8 and Blake Griffin has none.
Now, during that early stretch the Warriors weren’t exactly absent but were falling further behind, down by 18 when they called time out with 8:30 to play in the half.
Griffin was the first starter to return to the game with 7:33 to play and Chris Paul followed about 30 seconds later with the Clippers leading by 21.
It’s unclear if the Warriors were just having a bad night or they were perfectly content to leave Los Angeles after stealing one road win.
Even the backcourt duo arguably considered the best in the NBA were having problems. Klay Thompson was sent to the bench in the first quarter with three fouls, although he had scored seven points, which turned out to be the team high. Incredibly, Stephen Curry had scored only four points by halftime.
Griffin scored 21 points in the first half, followed by Jordan with nine points and three blocked shots. Crawford also had nine points and Granger had seven.
Chris Paul didn’t really need to score much and finished the half with four points but seven assists.
Blake Griffin did something in the must-win Game 2 for the Clippers he didn’t do in the first game — he played. All 12 minutes, too.
Dogged by early foul trouble in Game 1, Griffin played slightly more than three minutes in the first half on Saturday.
On Monday, he showed some of the dominance that Clippers fans have grown used to seeing. He scored 14 points on four of seven shooting and had three rebounds.
The Clippers started strong in Game 1 and everyone knows how that game turned out. On Monday at Staples Center, they rolled up a 9-2 lead based on five points from J.J. Redick and a basket each from Griffin and Chris Paul.
The lead was extended to nine points (13-4) when DeAndre Jordan — yes, you’re reading this right — made two free throws as did Griffin.
Free-throw shooting was a weakness for the Clippers in Game 1, as they made only 23 of 35. In the first quarter, they were eight of nine.
Another difference from Game 1 came with about six minutes to play in the quarter when Matt Barnes scored his first basket of the series. A good sign, perhaps?
He later scored a second basket, although he missed the free throw to make it a three-point play. But perhaps more importantly it was on a play in which Klay Thompson picked up his third foul. Thompson was the Warriors' leading scorer in the first quarter with seven points.
The Clippers closed out the quarter with a 6-2 run, including two baskets by Jamal Crawford, who was a miserable 2 of 12 in Game 1.
As the Clippers prepared for their must-win game Monday night against the Golden State Warriors the palpable excitement of the crowd at Staples Center before Game 1 was gone. Instead, it had all the feel of a November game against Utah.
Was it because of a late arriving crowd stuck on Olympic Boulevard? Or was it the stinging reminder of a Saturday afternoon and a game the team could have won?
The Warriors lead the best-of-seven first-round NBA playoff series, 1-0. If the Clippers lose on Monday, they will find themselves in a hole that they likely won’t emerge. Games 3 and 4 are on the Warriors' home court.
What has to go right for the Clippers?
— Blake Griffin has to stay out of foul trouble. On Saturday, foul trouble kept him out of the game almost all of the first half and half of the fourth period.
— The Clippers have to do a better job at the free-throw line. In Game 1 they made only 23 of 35.
— Jamal Crawford has to regain some regular-season form and make some shots. He was 2 for 12 in Game 1.
— And, Chris Paul has to have a better-than-average game. Even though he was the game’s leading scorer with 28 points, he wasn’t as sharp and clutch as people are used to seeing him.
— Hope that Golden State, having already taken a game on the road, will be on cruise control in low gear having come away from Staples Center with one win and taken back the homecourt advantage.
These questions should be answered by around 10:30 Monday night.