Any late-season game between teams with identical records angling for NBA playoff position should, for the sake of competitive justice, be close and decided by each roster’s certified elite.
The Warriors of Stephen Curry and Clippers of Kawhi Leonard complied Wednesday night at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Curry won the battle, but the Warriors lost the game, 134-126, an outcome that extends Golden State’s road losing streak to nine and gives Los Angeles a 2-2 season-series tie.
Though Curry finished with 50 points, Leonard had 30 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals – and a more productive supporting cast.
Here are three observations from a game in which the Warriors outshot the Clippers (55.7 percent to 47.9) but were soundly beaten in three key categories: Points off turnovers, 20-11, second-chance points, 27-11 and fourth quarter rebounding, 14-6.
The spectacle of Steph
There was no third quarter magic this time for the Warriors, but there was plenty for Curry.
One day after turning 35, Steph came out of the halftime break, strapped his teammates to his well-defined back and tried to carry them to triumph. Playing all 12 minutes, he scored 21 of his 50 points, shooting 9 of 11 from the field, including 3 of 4 from deep.
Meanwhile, his teammates scored 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including 2 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Curry shot 20 of 28 from the field, including 8 of 14 from deep, but the Warriors dropped to 8-4 when he scores at least 50 points.
Curry during the game tied Wilt Chamberlain for most games of at least 50 points with seven, became the first player in NBA history to collect 10,000 points in 3-point shots and the 33rd player to record at least 600 games with at least 20 points.
Draymond loses tough battle
Draymond Green picked up his 15th technical foul more than a month ago, on Feb. 13 against the Washington Wizards.
The Warriors, noting Draymond’s history, had faith that there wouldn’t be a 16th technical foul, which crosses the threshold of allowance. It comes with a one-game suspension, something Green previously had managed to avoid.
Until he was pushed from behind by Russell Westbrook while positioning for a possible rebound and retaliated. After Ivica Zubac’s shot dropped through the net, the ball made its way to Draymond, who grabbed it and shoved into the side of Westbrook’s head.
Referee Karl Lane blew the whistle, assessing the fateful technical foul.
A few seconds after the Green-Westbrook exchange, Marcus Morris Sr. forcefully grabbed Draymond and slung him to the ground, resulting in a flagrant-2 and automatic ejection for Morris.
Technical fouls can be rescinded upon league review, but it’s likely that Draymond will be sitting Friday night when the Warriors face the Hawks in Atlanta.
Good streak, short life
To achieve their season-long objective of consistency, the Warriors lately have focused on early defense in hopes of eliminating poor first quarters which have been a habit.
Their goal was to build leads in the first quarter. They accomplished it in each of the last two games, both victories at home.
The Warriors failed in this game. They were terrific early, taking an 8-1 lead while forcing six consecutive missed field goals, but the Clippers responded with some defense of their own and that changed everything.
The Warriors scored only 15 points over the final 9:30 of the quarter, while the Clippers poured in 27, shooting 58.8 percent during that span.
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That took the Warriors into the second quarter trailing 28-23, the first time they’ve fallen behind in the first quarter since, well, their last road game, last Thursday at Memphis.
Happy trails to the two-game streak. Some bad habits die hard.