All-Star point guard Stephen Curry exploded for 17 of his
game-high 33 points in the first quarter, and the Warriors added
on-court misery to the Clippers' off-the-court issues, thumping the
Pacific Division regular-season champs 118-97. The result evened the
Western Conference first-round series at 2-2.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven set is scheduled for Tuesday night at
the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Clippers were last seen
crushing the Warriors by 40 points in Game 2.
However, that was with a packed house of Clippers fans and owner
Donald Sterling in attendance, neither of which is even remotely
close to being a certainty upon the return Tuesday.
"We're going home now, and usually that would mean we're going to
our safe haven," Clippers coach Doc Rivers noted. "I don't even know
if that's true, to be honest."
Sterling was asked not to show up in Oakland on Sunday after
controversial comments attributed to him went public in the two days
off between Games 3 and 4.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver instructed Sterling to lie low while
the league investigates the authenticity of a tape recording on
which a man identified as the Clippers owner made racial remarks so
powerful that even President Obama felt compelled to respond during
a trip to Malaysia.
Clippers players, who were told by Rivers before Sunday's game not
to comment on the situation, made a silent protest during warmups
about 20 minutes before the opening tip. They circled in the
midcourt area of Oracle Arena and threw their Clippers warmup
jackets on the ground, exposing team warmup T-shirts that were
turned inside-out to hide any reference to the team Sterling owns.
Some have speculated — and even suggested — Clippers fans might
make their own statement toward Sterling by staying away Tuesday.
Though the Clippers refused to use the controversy as an excuse
Sunday, the distractions don't appear to be going away.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what it is going
to be like," standout point guard Chris Paul said of the reception
the Clippers will receive in Game 5. "Our fans have been amazing all
season long, and obviously I hope that it will be the same. You just
Shortly after the Clippers' pregame display, the Warriors stole the
spotlight. Starting a smaller lineup that featured 6-foot-7 forward
Draymond Green in place of 6-11 center Jermaine O'Neal, Golden State
sent its crowd into a frenzy with a 25-10 flurry over the first
5:58, with Curry and backcourt mate Klay Thompson combining for 19
points and five 3-pointers.
"We came out with a sense of urgency. That's been a big problem in
the first three games," Curry said. "We moved the ball well and set
good screens, but most important we executed at a higher pace. When
we do that, it's tough to guard."
The Clippers were never a serious threat thereafter, although they
did have a chance to close within single digits in the fourth
quarter. With Los Angeles down 100-90 and still almost six minutes
to play, star power forward Blake Griffin missed from the interior
and shooting guard J.J. Redick misfired from the perimeter.
When Curry nailed his seventh 3-pointer on Golden State's next
possession, the Clippers' last hope was dashed.
"They were playing great," Rivers said. "Once the game starts,
there's no excuses not to play and to play like we played.
"That's my fault. It really is. Whatever the distractions, I gotta
do a better job. I didn't do my job tonight."
Curry, who was held to six 3-pointers on 21 attempts in the first
three games of the series, went 7-for-14 from long range during his
33-point outing. He also found time for seven assists and a
team-high seven rebounds.
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Curry got plenty of help. Small forward Andre Iguodala (22 points),
Thompson (15), power forward David Lee (15) and backup swingman
Harrison Barnes (15) also scored in double figures for the Warriors,
who shot 55.4 percent overall and 46.9 percent from 3-point range.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson singled out Iguodala as having had his
best game of the series. The first-year Warrior added a team-high
nine assists to his series-high point total.
"He was spectacular. I thought this was some of his best work in a
Warrior uniform," Jackson said of Iguodala.
"He said to me at the end of Game 3: 'We're going to get Game 4.' It
was a throwaway line, but he was sincere. Total, top to bottom,
big-time game for him."
Backup guard Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with career
postseason-best 26 points, but Los Angeles' Big Three couldn't
duplicate their Game 3 prowess.
Griffin, coming off a 32-point performance in Thursday's 98-96 win,
had 21 points and only six rebounds. Paul managed just 16 points as
he fought through foul trouble, and center DeAndre Jordan followed
up a 14-point, 22-point demolition with no points and six rebounds.
"It's all on me," claimed Paul, attempting to take some of the heat
off his coach. "I let him (Curry) get loose early. I gotta be
Rivers said before the game he would have to monitor which, if any,
of his players were significantly affected by the Sterling
firestorm. He didn't make any substitutions while the Warriors were
busting out to an early cushion, perhaps because all five of his
starters were struggling.
Curry hit his first three 3-point attempts in the early burst, and
he was fouled on his fourth. Despite missing one of the three free
throws, he had 11 points during the 25-10 stretch, and Thompson
added eight points.
After Paul left the game with two fouls, Thompson buried a second
3-pointer, making it a 15-point game at the midpoint of the period.
The Clippers never got closer 10 the rest of the way.
NOTES: Game 6, which is now assured, will be played Thursday in
Oakland. Game 7, if necessary, would be played Saturday in Los
Angeles. ... The Warriors' 39 first-quarter points were the most
scored by any team in the playoffs so far this season. ... Golden
State shot a combined 10-for-50 from 3-point range in Games 2 and 3.
... The Warriors haven't lost consecutive home playoff games since
1991 against the Los Angeles Lakers. ... Asked before the game if he
feared fans in Los Angeles might boycott Game 5 in protest of team
owner Donald Sterling's comments, Clippers coach Doc Rivers
responded, "I would understand. I hope not. We need everybody."
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