The Golden State Warriors hung on to a tight 100-99 home win in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers. They’ll head back to Southern California for a do-or-die Game 7 showdown at Staples Center on Saturday, May 3, as a result.
The contest that knotted the series was far from pretty. Neither team managed to shoot 40 percent from the floor. The bricks could have been used to construct a K-8 school, but Golden State managed to pull out the victory despite only outscoring L.A. in the third quarter.
Draymond Green, meanwhile, posted one of the best performances of his young career. Although he finished 4-of-12 shooting while missing five three-point tries, he notched 14 points, 14 rebounds, five steals, four assists and a block.
Now the series comes down to a best of one.
Can Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson live up to their “Splash Brothers” moniker by raining down threes like they did in Game 4?
Will Griffin and DeAndre Jordan dominate the interior on both ends as each has at different points of the series?
Those key narratives will be a small fraction of a winning equation on Saturday.
Seeds: Los Angeles Clippers No. 3; Golden State Warriors No. 6
Series: Tied 3-3
Schedule for Series: Game 7 Saturday, May 3, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
Key Storylines for Golden State Warriors
During the 2013-14 regular season, the Dubs scored 107.7 points per game in wins and 98.6 in losses, per NBA.com.
Although it seems like a no-brainer that Golden State won games by scoring more than 100 points, its underrated defense showed in Game 6 that the team is capable of winning ugly.
Of course, is that something the Warriors really want to risk in a win-or-go-home Game 7 scenario? In a word: no.
During the Game 5 loss, Curry shot the ball just 10 times (finishing 5-of-10 for 17 points). He put up fewer attempts than Thompson, David Lee and Andre Iguodala, which isn’t what you want to see as a Warriors fan.
TNT broadcaster and NBA legend Reggie Miller harped on Curry’s lack of aggressiveness throughout the affair. He noted that the performance would be fine if the All-Star floor general was distributing at a solid rate. Curry, however, finished with twice as many turnovers (eight) as he had assists (four).
Even though he didn’t show much scoring efficiency in Game 6 (9-of-24 shooting), the volume of attempts he took opened up Golden State’s offense. The Davidson product dished out nine assists versus just two turnovers.
As a prototypical score-first point guard, Curry has to aim to do just that. If he’s a legitimate threat to fire away on every possession, the defense will honor that aspect of his game—freeing up opportunities for other guys to produce.
Something to look out for, though, is G-State’s depth.
Veteran center Jermaine O’Neal injured his right knee during an ugly collision with Glen Davis, which knocked him out of the game for good.
“It’s just a dirty play, to be quite honest,” O’Neal said, per USA Today’s Sam Amick.
O’Neal added, however, that he plans to compete as long as an MRI doesn’t reveal anything serious, per ESPN’s J.A. Adande:
That’s certainly a Warrior mentality.
If the big man isn’t able to suit up, though, guys like Marreese Speights and seldom-used Hilton Armstrong will have to step up with added minutes. Foul trouble in the frontcourt would likely doom Golden State’s chances to close out the series.
Key Storylines for Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers’ success hinges on the performances of two key talents: Griffin and Paul.
In L.A.’s three wins, Griffin is averaging 28.3 points on a torrid 60.7 percent from the field. In his team’s three losses, the 25-year-old notched 18 points per contest on a disappointing 43.1 percent clip. He didn’t cash more than eight field goals in any of those three letdowns.
The Oklahoma product established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate during the regular season. Head coach Doc Rivers will need to see more of the aggressiveness that put him in that conversation if his squad is going to move on.
With injuries to Andrew Bogut and O’Neal, Golden State shouldn’t have anyone capable of stopping Griffin. Green did an admirable job defending him in spurts throughout Game 6. D-Lee, however, doesn’t have the lateral quickness on defense to stop him—part of the reason why he fouled out of the last game.
If Griffin can attack the basket, get the opposing frontcourt in foul trouble and mix in his beautiful Tim Duncan-esque bank shots, there’s reason to love the Clips' chances.
CP3, though, is an enigma at this point.
How badly is he hurting? Is he playing at 80 percent? Perhaps 50 percent?
The Association’s best point guard simply did not look like himself in Game 6. If he’s not able to keep up with Curry on defense and lead the charge on offense, then L.A. will be vulnerable.
It’s no secret that each of these Cali-based franchises need major contributions from their stars. But what do we make of the role players?
For the Clippers, Jordan’s interior presence will be just as huge as his hulking physical frame.
In the wake of the Donald Sterling debacle, the much-improved center (understandably) posted meager numbers. He missed his only shot attempt, didn’t score, turned the ball over twice and added three personal fouls.
After the poor performance, Jordan sent a text message to Coach Rivers saying, “This wasn’t me. I’ll be back,” per Luke Augustus of the Daily Mail.
He came back with a vengeance, filling up the box score with 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.
He doesn’t need to have another transcendent performance for his team to dispatch Golden State, but his ability to control the boards is an invaluable asset. The Clippers can’t give the Warriors second-chance opportunities.
Speaking of second-chance opportunities, Green somehow managed to rip down six offensive rebounds in the Game 6 win.
Despite being undersized at 6’7”, the Michigan State product used his desire, heart and rear end to get in perfect rebounding position throughout the night. His huge impact was undoubtedly the difference in the one-point "W."
His grit, hustle and motor will continue to make him a key X-factor. Whether he can replicate Thursday’s performance after playing 41 minutes, though, remains to be seen.
Key Matchup: Chris Paul vs. Stephen Curry
When Curry is filling it up from beyond the arc for the Warriors, good things tend to happen.
The long-range sniper drained 44.3 percent of his attempts from downtown in wins during the regular season. By contrast, he made 39.8 percent in losses, per NBA.com. Both of those percentages are ridiculously impressive, but the slight increase in efficiency is a scary stat for opponents to ponder.
CP3’s injuries simply cannot be overstated. He’s the engine that makes the Clippers run. If he can’t be a viable stopper to Curry due to the hamstring ailment, the narrative of failing to win a single game beyond the first round since his arrival in Los Angeles will continue.
Scoring, dishing out assists, setting a defensive tone out on the perimeter—these two will have to do it all.
They’re certainly capable of doing so as two of the best 1-guards in the game, but Paul’s hobbled leg casts some doubts.
Game 1 of this series feels as if it took place a year ago. The Sterling saga has been emotionally draining on everyone within the NBA community, and both teams have had their ups and downs.
So which squad will pull out the win?
Honestly, this game feels like a 50-50 coin flip. The home crowd could will the adversity-driven Clippers to victory. At the same time, Golden State could ride Curry and Thompson to a hot start and get the fans on edge.
Ultimately, though, whoever wins the turnover battle will win the game. The Clippers were better at limiting those miscues during the regular season, but the Dubs coughed the ball up just eight times in Game 6—an alarming improvement.
Paul isn’t 100 percent healthy, and that—at least in terms of predicting a winner—gives Golden State a slight edge.
Prediction: Warriors defeat Clippers 109-108