There wasn't one defining moment that shaped the outcome that fans could point to during Game 5 of the series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors.
The Clippers jumped out to a fast start and simply held off every single surge the Warriors threatened them with. The lead fluctuated from as little as a single point to as much as double digits, but the important thing was Los Angeles was ahead.
In the fourth quarter, the Clippers stretched their five-point lead to a double-digit advantage and eventually won the game, 113-103.
DeAndre Jordan led the way with 25 points, an astounding 18 rebounds and four blocks, while Chris Paul added 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals. Klay Thompson paced the scoring for Golden State with 21 points.
The fallout from Donald Sterling’s despicable comments dominated the pregame storylines. Arash Markazi of ESPN pointed out that there would be no sponsor signs at the game as a result:
There will be no in-game promotions at the Clippers game tonight since they were all sponsored. All sponsor signs have been covered.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 30, 2014
However, that didn’t impact the fans’ response to the Clippers players themselves, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Colleen Dominguez of Fox Sports and SB Nation noted:
Super loud standing ovation for the Clippers as they come onto the court— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 30, 2014
Another fan sign: pic.twitter.com/WdUBtO75C7— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 30, 2014
Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group let fans know what the introductions were like before the contest began:
Clippers' intro starts with a black screen and a quote: "The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it."— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 30, 2014
Both teams came out of the gate a bit rusty in the shooting department, but the Clippers seized an early 21-14 lead after connecting on multiple dunks, including one from Blake Griffin that brought the crowd to its feet. One key play in the first quarter was a flagrant foul on Marreese Speights for hitting Griffin too high when Griffin was attacking the rim.
ESPN's Ryen Russillo sarcastically suggested that Speights saw the play a bit differently:
"All ball." -Marreese Speights— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) April 30, 2014
While the flagrant foul earned the Clippers free throws and the ball, NBA on TNT preferred Griffin flying through the air:
Golden State tried to stay within striking distance in the early going, but Los Angeles closed the quarter on a mini run and took a double-digit lead:
Just like that, Clippers lead is up to 11— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 30, 2014
NBA on ESPN noted that fast-break points were critical in Los Angeles' first-quarter effort. The Clippers held a 31-21 lead after the first 12 minutes and looked much sharper and energized than they did in the Game 4 loss:
ESPN's Skip Bayless attributed the fast start to the emotion of the home crowd and players:
Warriors getting run off the floor by unleashed Clippers' emotion from players and fans.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 30, 2014
It was imperative for the Clippers to show some early signs of life with head coach Doc Rivers questioning his team's toughness after Game 4, according to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com): "I just thought they were the tougher team and it wasn't even close. Should have been a first-round knockout."
The Warriors tried to use the three-point shot to climb back into the game and counter the Clippers' physicality. Harrison Barnes connected on one to trim the deficit at the onset of the second quarter:
Mark Jackson decided to go small in the second quarter to change the momentum. A four-point play certainly never hurts when you're trying to make a run, either:
Warriors super small with Green at center and Barnes at PF with Curry, Thompson and Jordan Crawford— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 30, 2014
Curry's 4-point play makes it 4-point game w/ 7:32 left in 2Q. #LetsGoWarriors— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) April 30, 2014
There's perhaps no duo you'd rather have in your lineup than Stephen Curry and Thompson when you need to score points in bunches:
While the Warriors cut into the lead with their sharpshooting, the Clippers got an impressive first half out of Jordan down low. The team's official Twitter page noted it was his third double-double of the playoffs already:
.@deandrejordan 12 pts, 10 rebs. 3rd double-double of postseason.— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) April 30, 2014
After trading spurts in the final few minutes of the second quarter, the Clippers took a 55-50 lead into intermission. Jordan hit a reverse layup at the buzzer to put a damper on the momentum Golden State had stolen during the second quarter:
DeAndre Jordan doing man's work -- putback to beat the buzzer has LAC up 55-50 at the half. He's got 15 and 11.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 30, 2014
As the third quarter began, Fox Sports gave us a chance to reflect:
No matter what team you root for, we've all had this moment as fans. This is why we cheer. pic.twitter.com/YsuGK7dw3a— FOX Sports: Hoops (@HoopsonFOX) April 30, 2014
A potential turning point occurred in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Griffin struggled to deal with Draymond Green on the defensive side of the ball and picked up a critical fourth foul because of it:
Blake Griffin just called for his 4th foul. Draymond Green giving him fits right now.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 30, 2014
It got worse for the Clippers in the immediate aftermath of Griffin's fourth foul. Hedo Turkoglu fell awkwardly and injured himself. He had to be helped off the court, but national sports writer Andy Glockner found some humor in the situation:
My reaction to Turkoglu's injury: "He's still playing??"— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) April 30, 2014
The team released the official injury update shortly afterward:
Hedo Turkoglu (lower back contusion) return is doubtful— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) April 30, 2014
On the court, the Clippers weren't the only ones dealing with foul trouble as the teams exchanged baskets throughout much of the third quarter. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that David Lee also had to return to the pine before the fourth quarter began:
David Lee picks up his fifth personal foul with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter. Draymond Green back into the game.— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) April 30, 2014
The Warriors were essentially treading water in the third quarter, remaining between two and six points down for much of the proceedings. The up-and-down play from Curry was partially to blame:
Curry followed back-to-back ridiculous 3s with his 7th turnover— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 30, 2014
Paul gave the Clippers some breathing room at the end of the quarter, and they took a 77-72 lead into the final 12 minutes:
Green picked up his fifth foul in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, which was a major blow to the Warriors' chances given how effectively he was playing defense on Griffin:
Griffin has 10 points on 2 of 10 shooting #Draymond— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 30, 2014
Griffin hit four consecutive shots, and suddenly Green wasn't as difficult to score on with a sixth foul to worry about:
As the clock ticked away, the Warriors decided to intentionally foul Jordan on multiple possessions in a row. However, it backfired when the Clippers big man hit his freebies:
Jordan's 3 of 4 in two trips chases the Warriors off the intentional foul strategy, but Jordan ends up at the line again anyway— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 30, 2014
The Warriors needed flawless execution down the stretch, but Jordan and company were simply too much for them:
#Warriors facing 11-point deficit w/ 2:56 left in 4Q. Need to be pretty close to perfect to pull this one out.— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) April 30, 2014
DeAndre Jordan has 23 pts, 18 reb, and the Clippers lead the Warriors 103-92 with 2:56 left in the 4th quarter of Game 5. #GSvsLAC— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 30, 2014
Golden State never truly threatened in the final couple of minutes, and the Clippers won the game by 10.
The good news for the Warriors heading into Game 6 on Thursday is that their raucous home crowd will be a factor once again. There was a lot of emotion in the building in Los Angeles on Tuesday, propelling the Clippers to a quick start and they never really looked back.
Who wins Game 6?
The fact that Golden State was close throughout Game 5 despite Curry only attempting 10 shots from the field should also give fans some confidence.
Curry is one of the best shooters in the world, and he will bounce back Thursday.
With the home crowd and a much more typical Curry on their side, the Warriors may tie this series up at three games apiece. Considering the back-and-forth nature of the entire Western Conference playoffs, including the matchup between these two teams, a Game 7 only seems appropriate.