The combination of do-or-die desperation and a rocking home crowd can be a powerful one in the NBA playoffs, as the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers found out Thursday in the Warriors' 100-99 victory in Game 6.
Golden State, behind 24 points from Stephen Curry, outlasted the Clippers in a back-and-forth affair that featured a handful of runs and a very stressful final minute for the fans. Los Angeles cut a seven-point lead to a single digit with less than two seconds remaining, but the home team was able to hold on to win and force a Game 7 Saturday.
The Warriors were fighting for their postseason lives in front of their home crowd, and the NBA on ESPN set the scene before the game even started:
The Golden State Warriors official Twitter account gave fans a peak at the warm-ups and also let those watching on television know just how loud it was inside the stadium before tip-off:
Eric Patten of Clippers.com gave the road team’s perspective of the buildup leading to the game:
Once the game actually started, Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group noted that the Warriors couldn’t afford a slow start given the stakes. However, that is exactly what happened, as the Clippers jumped out to an early lead in the opening minutes:
A big reason Los Angeles controlled the start of the game was the defense of DeAndre Jordan, as the NBA and Diamond Leung of Bay Area News Group acknowledged:
Despite Los Angeles’ hot start, Golden State came roaring back. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle realized that Curry was being much more aggressive in the first quarter on the offensive end than he was throughout all of Game 5:
Thompson and the NBA on TNT gave a shout out to the raucous crowd during the comeback:
It was just the type of crowd that Warriors guard Steve Blake expected, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "We knew it was going to be loud and that's what will be waiting for us on Thursday at home. We've got to believe and if we do that, we can come back and win two games."
It was appropriate given the back-and-forth runs in the opening 12 minutes that the game was tied at 25 after one quarter. ESPN Stats & Info painted the picture of just how important Curry was in the first quarter:
A critical moment in the game happened in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Jermaine O'Neil was hit hard by Glen Davis, and the Warriors big man fell to the ground in pain. Considering Andrew Bogut is already out with injury, this was particularly worrisome for the Warriors.
Team broadcaster Time Roye and ESPN's Arash Markazi provided details, while Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports pondered what it meant in the long term for O'Neal's career:
Patten and Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report added some humor to the situation by bringing in football comparisons:
Things got worse for Golden State's big men when Marreese Speights picked up a critical fourth foul, as Leung and Dan Woike of The Orange County Register noted:
The Clippers took advantage of the situation in the immediate aftermath of the injury, but they had some issues of their own to worry about:
If nothing else, this may give an insight into why the Clippers were able to seize the lead back in the second quarter after David Lee picked up his third foul:
Despite Los Angeles' extended run, Curry put home a layup in the final seconds and trimmed the halftime deficit to 51-48.
As the teams came out for the third quarter, the Warriors provided an update on O'Neal's status:
As it was in the first half, foul trouble quickly became a story in the opening minutes of the third quarter:
All the whistles were interrupting the flow of the game, and the team's combined shooting numbers suffered as a result:
Golden State found a way to at least temporarily address the offensive issues, via Geoff Lepper of NBA.com:
If the outside shots aren't falling, there's nothing wrong with a dunk to fire up the crowd. That is exactly what Lee did off of this impressive pass from Draymond Green:
After the low-scoring third quarter came to an end, the Warriors held onto a narrow 70-67 lead. GSW Stats made a point of letting fans know why that advantage was so important:
It didn't take long for foul trouble to rear its ugly head in the fourth quarter:
As if right on cue, Lee fouled out. While it certainly hurt the Warriors in the depth department, it wasn't necessarily the worst thing in terms of stopping Blake Griffin from scoring:
The teams traded blows throughout the fourth quarter, but there was one interesting development given the sheer amount of shots that Curry shot in the first half:
Curry may have been quiet, but it was a role player who stepped up big in the final minutes in typical NBA playoff fashion. Andre Iguodala drained a three-pointer and drew the sixth and final foul on Griffin. It stretched the lead to 96-89 before he shot the free throw:
Despite the assumption that the Clippers chances ended with that three, they did cut the lead to one with less than two seconds remaining. However, it was simply too little, too late, and the Warriors held on to win 100-99.
Buckle up because this series is heading to a decisive Game 7.
Curry and the Warriors will have some momentum on their side after the victory Thursday, but the Clippers will be playing at home. Expect plenty of emotion from the Los Angeles fans.
The Clippers have gotten off to impressive starts throughout much of this series, and will do so again Saturday with their supporters on hand. Curry and the rest of the sharp shooters on Golden State's roster will certainly make a game of it, but Los Angeles might be too much to handle on its home floor.
With O'Neal's status in doubt, look for the Clippers to exploit the lack of depth down low for the Warriors throughout the contest. Eventually, that advantage will wear Golden State's defense down and should lead to a Clippers victory.
The winner of Game 7 Saturday will face the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies series.