Both teams made a statement in Game 4 Sunday, but it was the Golden State Warriors’ statement that evened this playoff series at two games apiece. With no Andrew Bogut, many (including myself) were declaring the Dubs dead in the water before Game 1 had even tipped off. But after Donald Sterling’s latest string of alleged racist comments put the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA in the darkest place they’ve been in years, this series may be a whole different animal now.
No one can blame the Clippers for being distracted heading into Game 4. The team made a unified statement before the game, shedding their warmups bearing the word “Clippers” on them and throwing them down at half court while warming up with their practice jerseys inside out to hide the Clippers moniker as well. It was a terrific sentiment voicing their disapproval of racism in the face of this national controversy, but it’s no surprise their focus might not have entirely been on the game itself.
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) April 27, 2014
Game 4 probably had just as much to do with the Clippers being distracted as it did with the Warriors doing a lot of things right. But now that we’ve seen Stephen Curry find his offense and more importantly, that these off-court distractions will make it hard for Chris Paul and company to focus on a playoff series, has momentum swung in Golden State’s favor?
To answer that question, we need to examine Game 4 a little more closely. The Warriors desperately needed a win to stay alive in this series and thanks to their baby-faced assassin, they got one. After being locked down defensively for the first three games, Curry dropped 33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists along with seven 3s, a career playoff high. Curry buried Los Angeles early, raining down five 3s in the first quarter like heavy artillery. The Dubs led by 18 at halftime and the Clips never got any kind of lasting momentum in the second half to close the gap.
This is a perfect storm of perfect storms for the Clippers.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 27, 2014
In my Game 4 preview piece, I laid out five things the Warriors had to do in order to even the series. Draymond Green had to play more minutes; he started in Game 4, played 41 minutes and finished with a plus/minus differential of +33 despite his less-than-eyepopping 4-5-5-2-2 stat line. The Warriors needed to find a way to stop Blake Griffin, who was averaging 33.5 points and seven boards on 67 percent shooting in his two prior games; in Game 4 the Dubs held him to 21 points and got him to commit four turnovers and four fouls.
Andre Iguodala needed to step up offensively; in Game 4, he had 22 points and nine assists on 6-of-8 shooting. The Warriors needed to go off from deep and win the 3-point battle; in Game 4, they were 15-of-32 from downtown (47 percent) compared to Lob City’s 10-of-31. Even with Klay Thompson fouling out, Golden State was unconscious from downtown. And when you make 3s, it opens up surprising/fun things like this:
But most importantly, Curry had to win his matchup with CP3, which he absolutely did. Whether he was setting up teammates, knocking down his patented ridiculous 3s off the dribble or even surprising everyone with some terrific defensive play (by taking charges and going into berserker mode after blocking a J.J. Redick turnaround jumper), Curry gave Oracle Arena all the ammo it needed to detonate both our eardrums and Lob City’s chances of closing the series out in Game 5.
Loudest Oracle has been since 2007 RIGHT NOW.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) April 27, 2014
The Warriors know they can beat this Clippers team and more importantly, they know how they can beat this Clippers team after Game 4. They’ll only enjoy the “Roaracle advantage” for one more game, but is it really unreasonable to believe this team can steal a Game 5 win on the road in a Staples Center that may not sell out if people decide to protest or boycott? Is it unreasonable to wonder how the Clippers will regroup, especially if a decision regarding Sterling hasn’t been made before Tuesday?
Sunday’s game was more than just a basketball game and the Clippers made a symbolic and powerful stand against racism. But it left them on the wrong side of momentum in a series that is now very much up in the air. The Warriors have played amazing basketball in their two victories, especially without their best defensive player available. They deserve credit for that. But if the Clippers fail to advance past the first round and lose to the Warriors, we may always remember this as the series that Donald Sterling swung … and the potential title contender that his racism dissembled.
Doc Rivers: “We’re going home now. Usually that would mean we’re going to our safe haven. And I don’t even know if that’s true.”
— J.A. Adande (@jadande) April 27, 2014