LOS ANGELES -- Sunday's Warriors-Clippers game at Staples Center was a matchup of the NBA's top two defenses. And it looked like it -- the game was a grit-and-grind battle -- until an angry Steph Curry took over in the fourth quarter.
Curry entered the fourth with 20 points, and shortly after his first basket of the period, he picked up a technical foul for snapping at a referee for not calling a foul on Terance Mann on a fastbreak.
Curry was hot, showing flashes of when he snapped in the 2016 NBA Finals, and that lit a fire under him, as he went into flamethrower mode. A few minutes later, Curry needed less than 90 seconds to hit three consecutive 3-pointers to seal the Warriors' 105-90 win over the Clippers.
Prior to Curry's eruption, both teams struggled to get an offensive rhythm going, and relied on fighting their way to the hoop and shutting down their opponent on the other end. For a while, it looked like neither team would score 100 points.
The Warriors finished the game shooting below 50 percent from the field, but they had just enough edge to beat the Clippers and improve to an NBA-best 18-2 this season heading into a titanic showdown with the Phoenix Suns, who have won 16 games in a row, on Tuesday night.
Now, Los Angeles' defense doesn't receive all the credit for the Warriors' sub-par shooting. Golden State looked like it was still in desperate need of its morning coffee for the early 12:30 p.m. PT tipoff. There was no panic through the first half because the Warriors were waiting for their third-quarter spurt. But it never came.
Finally, it happened in the fourth, thanks to Curry. The Warriors got mad, and then started knocking down shots and ran away with the game.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday afternoon:
As previously mentioned, it was an off-shooting night all around. But Jordan Poole got going in the final few minutes of the third quarter, and it all started after the Warriors guard was swatted and taunted by Clippers big man Isaiah Hartenstein.
The second Hartenstein was slapped with a technical foul for standing over Poole after his block, something clicked in Poole's head. He knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers and gave the Warriors a much-needed offensive jolt. That carried into the third quarter, when the Warriors took a 14-point lead halfway through, and then just continued to build on it.
Their fourth-quarter run also was fueled by bubbling tension. Curry was hit with a technical, and the Warriors responded by Juan Toscano-Anderson diving on the floor on defense and Otto Porter Jr. knocking down a three. Curry then hit several 3-pointers of his own to cement the win.
Steph's gonna Steph
Up until his fourth-quarter barrage, Curry was struggling to find an offensive rhythm. After the first half, Curry had just 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. The third quarter wasn't much better, as he added just seven in that period.
But boy oh boy, Curry got going the fourth, scoring 13 more in the 10 minutes of action he had in that quarter.
After being hit with a technical foul, Curry walked to the far end of the court looking up at the crowd, nodding his head. It was as if he was telling himself it was time to shut down the Clippers. Just a few minutes later, he hit back-to-back threes.
Curry finished the day with 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range, with five rebounds, six assists and six steals.
A defensive grind
While the Warriors' shooting was a little sleepy, their defense was not. The Warriors were locked in on that end from the start, and held the Clippers to 40 percent shooting from the field and 32.1 percent from three.
The Warriors also registered a season-high 19 steals. Curry was responsible for six of them, just one shy of tying his career high in the category.