The Los Angeles Clippers were desperate to even the series at 1-1 before it swings north, and they left little doubt during a 138-98 thrashing of the Golden State Warriors in Monday's Game 2.
The Clippers bounced back from a tough four-point loss in Game 1 with a domineering wire-to-wire victory. Blake Griffin led the way with 35 points, and nine different players scored at least nine for L.A. Stephen Curry scored 24 for Golden State, but he had only four by halftime when the game already felt out of reach.
Many fans likely missed the first quarter as TNT's early game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder went to overtime before the Grizz emerged victorious. By the time the final buzzer sounded in OKC, the Clippers were wrapping up the first quarter with a 31-20 edge. They led by 20 less than four minutes later.
As TNT announcer Reggie Miller phrased it midway through the second quarter, "This is almost reaching an epic level of a beatdown."
With 55 percent shooting and 21 points from Griffin, the Clippers seized a 67-41 halftime advantage and led by 33 early in the third. The result was never in doubt during the second half, and the Clippers deserve high praise for their wholesale superiority.
Player grades start at a C+ for a decent overall performance. That increases or decreases based on the quality of each player's contributions, with extra points for huge stats or clutch performance. (We'll put role players on the grading curve.)
Instead of gold stars and frowny faces, here are grades for every player.
Key Clippers Grades
Blake Griffin, Power Forward
Griffin put down 21 first-half points, with a lot of help by going 9-of-10 at the free-throw line. And he wasn't nearly done. Blake put down another 14 in the third quarter and was able to take a break for the final 12 minutes and change. He added six rebounds and two steals to his game-high 35.
It was a stellar effort on the heels of his 19-minute foul out in Game 1. Griffin missed only four field goals and one foul shot all game, proving that he has carried his MVP-caliber form from the regular season into the playoffs.
Chris Paul, Point Guard
With Griffin locked in a rhythm on offense, Chris Paul was more than happy to keep feeding his high-flying power forward. Paul tallied a double-double with his generosity, netting 12 points and 10 assists, and he was like a kleptomaniac with five steals. He finished with half a quadruple-double thanks to six rebounds, but his effort was nearly lost in the all-out onslaught from L.A.
DeAndre Jordan, Center
Jordan was clearly rankled after the league announced Monday that Joakim Noah won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He swatted five shots in the game that the scorekeeper counted. Refs called goaltending on another blocked shot, a beautiful effort play on backside pursuit. TNT cameras showed Jordan disagreeing with the call, shaking his head and clearly saying, "No way."
Jordan also added nine boards and 11 points. The scoring mostly came at the charity stripe where Jordan succeeded in making seven of his eight attempts. If Jordan is suddenly making his free throws in the playoffs, opponents should be terrified.
Jamal Crawford, Shooting Guard
A super-sub if there ever was one, Crawford wasted no time in racking up nine points and three steals in the first half. He led a huge surge from the Clippers bench during the first half which ran from the end of the first quarter through the midway point of the second.
Matt Barnes, Small Forward
After Barnes wrapped up David Lee on a drive in the paint during the third quarter, TNT announcer Kevin Harlan proclaimed that he was "riding him like a rodeo cowboy." That was the highlight of the second half.
Barnes did a nice job of forcing the action, facilitating ball movement and drawing contact to earn his 13-point night. He pulled off a sparkling spin-o-rama in the first quarter and aided the Clippers domination.
J.J. Redick, Shooting Guard
Redick was something of an afterthought in this game, but that was only because Griffin was hogging up all the offense by dismantling the Dubs down low. The sharpshooter finished with nine points, a steal and an assist.
Rest of Bench
Danny Granger had to have his former Indiana Pacers teammates feeling jealous, that is, if any of them could stomach watching Granger drop 15 points in a Clippers uniform during the rout of Golden State. However, he also fouled out in just 18 minutes.
Darren Collison would have put up some serious assist numbers if he had played more than 20 minutes. Like Paul, he tallied 12 points and 10 dimes but saw under 21 minutes.
Hedo Turkoglu put in 13 points on just seven shots, and the big man joined Granger by hitting three three-pointers off the bench. The 35-year-old looked pretty perky against the Dubs' thin frontcourt.
Glen Davis received a cheeky chicken wing from Marreese Speights early in the fourth quarter, and they had to be separated. They were assessed double technicals, and if Adam Silver is smart, the league will start planning a pay-per-view event between those two in some sort of polygonal cage.
Key Warriors Grades
Stephen Curry, Point Guard
Steph Curry, a.k.a. "the greatest shooter in the history of the universe," was stuck on zero points for the first 21 minutes of the game. He reached halftime with four points.
At halftime, Stephen Curry has less points than Hedo Turkoglu, Danny Granger and Marreese Speights. Did I really just type that sentence?— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 22, 2014
Curry pressed hard in the third quarter and scored 20 of his team's 32 points. He converted consecutive driving layups late in the quarter and appeared to get contacted on one or both of the layups. After the second no-call, he hurled his mouth guard across the court and received a needless technical.
He finished on 24 to go with eight assists, but he bricked six of his seven attempts from long range.
Klay Thompson, Shooting Guard
Thompson got into very early foul trouble, as in three fouls before the four-minute mark of the first quarter. That was not what the Dubs needed from their big-bodied guard, and his defense was sorely missed. Then Thompson committed a fourth foul in the opening minute of the second half.
He played only 20 minutes and notched seven points on four shots, plus two steals and a block.
David Lee, Power Forward
Turnovers continued to be a bane for the Warriors, and Lee committed four of the team's 26. He also got three of his shots blocked by Jordan, whose long-armed leaps know seemingly no bounds.
Lee ended up with 11 points and four rebounds, as well as a game-low minus-29 rating. With Andrew Bogut (rib) out, there is a much greater pressure on Lee to contribute robust double-double production, and he could not find it with Jordan on the prowl.
Andre Iguodala, Small Forward
Iguodala did some useful things, but he was another culprit in the morass of turnovers. Iggy notched four points, four turnovers, three assists and three steals in 30 minutes as the Dubs couldn't get much going.
Jermaine O'Neal, Center
There was some bad blood on display, including Clippers coach Doc Rivers barking at Jermaine O'Neal in the latter stages of the second quarter. They jawed at each other for so long, refs had no choice but to award double technicals.
This series is awesome. RT @DanWoikeSports: Doc Rivers and Jermaine O'Neal just traded some words.— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) April 22, 2014
O'Neal got four points and three rebounds. It's hard to believe the 35-year-old O'Neal is starting at the 5 on a playoff team, but somehow the Warriors were actually not prepared for the eventuality that was a Bogut injury.
Rest of Bench
The Warriors bench padded their stats as the second half became a complete laugher. Draymond Green put down 11 points but got himself into foul trouble. Harrison Barnes scored nine.
Marreese Speights actually played well, but chucking "Big Baby" was probably not the smartest thing to do when losing by 30-plus.
Jordan Crawford got to the line seven times and ended up with 10 points, but none of them were of any consequence. He threw a needless hip into Collison in the final minute of the game and was briefly ejected, though it was downgraded upon review.
The Warriors will need to take a hard look in the mirror after this loss, but they can wipe the slate clean as the series returns to the raucous home crowd in the Bay Area. As Curry told reporters after Game 2 about heading back to Oakland, via Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group: "We know we won't see much red."
However, the Clippers served notice with the 40-point annihilation, and the rest of the series looks set to be a brawl. Containing Griffin will have to be a priority, and the defensive intensity must improve across the board.
Reggie: "At some point, the #Warriors are going to have to make some sort of defensive effort...They have to get the fight back in them"— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) April 22, 2014
Game 3 tips off at Oracle Arena Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT. Game 4 will be a Sunday matinee at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. The series comes back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on April 29.