A night after getting shellacked by the Portland Trail Blazers, the Golden State Warriors flipped the switch and slipped past the Los Angeles Clippers, 115-112, at Staples Center to improve to 49-5 on the season.
The Warriors led almost the entire game and held a 13-point lead with just over three minutes to play, but with their starters subbed out, the Clippers cut the deficit to three—with five seconds to play—before a frantic finish resulted in C.J. Wilcox's desperation heave that fell short.
Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver put the Warriors' nearly wire-to-wire effort in perspective:
Chaotic ending aside, Warrriors led for final 46+ minutes to beat Clippers, 115-112. Fifth straight GSW win over LAC.— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 21, 2016
In their continued pursuit of the most prolific regular season in NBA history, the Warriors received strong contributions from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as Stephen Curry engaged in a physical duel with Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
Thompson notched a team-high 32 points, and Green posted 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, while Curry managed 23 points and nine assists while shooting just 5-of-15 from the field and 3-of-8 from three.
Jamal Crawford, who hit one ridiculous shot after another, as he single-handedly attempted to erase the Warriors' double-digit lead, led the Clippers with 25 points.
Paul chipped in 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists, as DeAndre Jordan double-doubled with 16 points and 21 boards in a game that had him matched up against much-smaller defenders.
Playing without centers Andrew Bogut (strained right Achilles) and Festus Ezeli (knee surgery), the Warriors were forced to go small from the start.
And while a size disparity could have represented a major advantage for the bigger Clippers, Golden State turned the tables and embraced the run-and-gun style it has become renowned for.
From the outset, the Warriors sought to blitz the Clippers in transition, and L.A.'s defense simply couldn't keep up. Golden State dictated pace beautifully, and the contrast in speed made it look like a Ferrari was drag racing a Prius.
But even when the Warriors were forced to set up in the half court, they were able to keep the Clippers off balance with pick-and-roll schemes that kept Los Angeles defenders guessing, as Fox Sports' Jovan Buha explained:
The Warriors just force you into impossible decisions on every defensive possession.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) February 21, 2016
A primary example came in the first half, when Curry dragged Paul and Cole Aldrich with him off a screen and calmly slipped a pass to Marreese Speights for a thunderous jam:
The Clippers attempted to get physical with the Warriors time and again when play slowed down, but a tightly called game resulted in Golden State sinking 12 first-half free throws to help build a 10-point halftime lead.
The second half offered the Clippers a chance to remedy the woes that consumed them over the first 24 minutes, but the Warriors continued to space the floor effectively while largely neutralizing Jordan on his trademark dives to the basket in the pick-and-roll.
The Clippers made inroads thanks to Crawford's outrageous shot-making and Paul's stingy defense of Curry, as HBO's Bill Simmons noted, but the Warriors stuck to their blueprint and pushed past L.A. with a balanced scoring attack buoyed by some strong bench contributions from the team's primary wing scorers.
CP has committed 39 fouls in this game. The absolute best right now at stiff arms, shoves, clutches, bumps + nudges. In Curry's head a tad.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) February 21, 2016
Harrison Barnes was particularly important. His jump shot was in rhythm all night long, and he proved to be a key supplementary scorer who made the most of his limited catch-and-shoot attempts.
The impending restricted free agent finished with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three, and the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps noted the swingman stands to move up a few tax brackets this summer:
Harrison Barnes is going to make so much money in a few months.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) February 21, 2016
Along with his cool, calm and collected perimeter shooting, Barnes threw down a vicious one-handed slam in transition off Thompson's feed:
Now that they're back on the winning track, the Warriors can focus on closing out their seven-game road swing with a flurry of wins before returning to the Bay Area.
Clashes against the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic await in the span of the next five days, but those games will all serve as tuneups for a prime-time showdown next Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the Warriors warded off the Thunder at Oracle Arena on Feb. 6, a showdown at Chesapeake Energy Arena should serve as another solid litmus test for both sides with the Western Conference playoffs two months away.
The Clippers, meanwhile, have a tasty stretch awaiting that includes consecutive contests against the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets. So while Saturday may have served as a brief setback, tearing off a few more wins should be no problem.
It has become clear over the past six weeks that the Clippers can survive without Blake Griffin, and head coach Doc Rivers' club should have no problem regaining the form it flashed throughout January and early February when it resumes play Monday against the lowly Suns.
Following the win, Thompson praised the Staples Center crowd for bringing tremendous energy:
"Don't let it ruin your night," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said following the Clippers' near-comeback, per Golliver. "It's a good win."
Back in the locker room, Rivers provided an update on Paul's status after the point guard sat for the final few minutes of the fourth quarter, per Buha:
Doc says Chris Paul had a thigh bruise and he didn't like the way he was running, so he took him out to prevent any further damage.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) February 21, 2016
Buha also noted Jordan wasn't particularly pleased with some lines of questioning at the postgame podium:
DeAndre Jordan was just asked if the Warriors are the better team. He looked away and ignored the question.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) February 21, 2016
"We wanted to redeem ourselves for a poor performance last night," Thompson added, according to Golliver.