Lou Williams, Clippers Erase 31-Point Deficit to Shock Kevin Durant, Warriors

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2019

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 15: Lou Williams #23 of the LA Clippers shoots the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game Two of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 15, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off what may be the greatest comeback in NBA history given the talent on the other side and evened their first-round series with the Golden State Warriors at one game apiece.

Los Angeles erased a 31-point second-half deficit in Monday's Game 2 at Oracle Arena and stunned the two-time defending champions with a 135-131 victory.

Landry Shamet drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to complete the comeback, and Stephen Curry missed a three on the ensuing possession while Kevin Durant watched from the sideline after fouling out.

Lou Williams spearheaded the comeback with 36 points and 11 assists, while Montrezl Harrell (25 points and 10 rebounds) and Danilo Gallinari (24 points and six assists) provided support.

            

Clippers Teach Warriors Painful Lesson in Turning On and Off the Switch

It's difficult to even fault the Warriors for playing with a lack of urgency in Monday's game.

After all, they are the two-time defending champions who lifted three of the last four Larry O'Brien Trophies and won a record 73 games the one season they didn't in that stretch. They have won a Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals and competed against one of the best players in league history in LeBron James in the NBA Finals.

Monday was just Game 2 of a first-round series against a team that has no business beating them.

Lesson learned.

The game took a backseat for a stretch in the first quarter when DeMarcus Cousins suffered a quadriceps injury chasing a loose ball. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN noted "there's significant concern" the injury was a torn quadriceps even though he will undergo an MRI on Tuesday to determine the severity.

Cousins' absence was felt hard in the fourth quarter as Harrell dominated the paint and didn't miss a single one of his nine field-goal attempts. His dunk over multiple defenders to cut the lead to three with just more than two minutes remaining was the first time it felt as if the Clippers were going to complete the comeback.

Still, it appeared as if the injury was the only pain Golden State would feel when it jumped out to a 73-50 halftime lead with 17 assists on 23 made field goals.

A team that sported a net rating of 4.6 when Cousins was on the court and 7.0 when he was off it this season, per NBA.com, looked even better without its four-time All-Star down low in the first half. It turned to small-ball lineups and unleashed a barrage of three-pointers.

But Williams went into takeover mode in the second half, slashing through the lane for his own looks and facilitating whenever the Warriors were caught watching him. He was the best player on the floor against a team with at least three future Hall of Famers and led an 85-58 charge in the last two quarters.

While Los Angeles deserves all the credit in the world for the comeback, that is a score difference that simply wouldn't have happened if the Warriors were fully engaged for 48 minutes.

Golden State didn't have the mental toughness or second-half engagement level to deal with Patrick Beverley's style as a pestering defender who isn't afraid to talk regardless of the moment. Durant was ejected in Game 1 for getting involved with the pesky guard and then fouled out in Monday's contest in large part due to offensive fouls as he pushed him away.

Durant also had nine turnovers in the face of the pressure defense.

Draymond Green eventually fouled Beverley out with a massive flop, but it was too late at that point. Beverley had successfully done just what he intended—bother the Warriors just enough to throw them off their game and start focusing on him instead of securing the 2-0 series lead.

While that was happening, Williams, Harrell and Gallinari chipped away enough to put the visitors in position to win down the stretch.

Golden State flipped the proverbial switch during its first-half dominance but never did again against a Clippers squad that has been nothing but heart all season. Any assumption they would go away after being blown out in the opening two quarters was wrong and didn't take into account who they've been for months. 

Los Angeles could have folded when it traded away its leading scorer in Tobias Harris but instead has played with an intensity the Warriors couldn't match down the stretch. The champions have been on cruise control all season, while the Clippers have been fighting for their playoff lives and then seeding in the face of low expectations.

That is not to say the Warriors are suddenly going to lose this series. They are still far more talented and flashed just how dominant they can be in that first half, but they learned a painful lesson about not matching the intensity and desperation of their opponents in the postseason.

Even they can lose.

            

What's Next?

The series shifts to Los Angeles for Thursday's Game 3 and Sunday's Game 4 at Staples Center.

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