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:
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:
Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group let fans know what the introductions were like before the contest began:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
As the third quarter began, Fox Sports gave us a chance to reflect:
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:
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:
The team released the official injury update shortly afterward:
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:
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:
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 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:
The Warriors needed flawless execution down the stretch, but Jordan and company were simply too much for them:
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.
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.