The Clippers survived Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors Saturday night at Staples Center. Because game sevens are a unique beast in virtually every series, here are the five reasons (in no particular order of importance) why the Clippers beat Golden State in a close game and will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals next week.
Sometimes when teams are in high-pressure situations, they forget their identity and begin to operate outside their comfort zone. Not these Clippers. When other methods were failing, the Clippers reverted to a moniker they’ve outgrown, but one that will be a part of them as long as Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are part of the team. It may not win them a championship, but it helped them get through the darkest stages of the fourth quarter tonight. Three times in the fourth quarter—including one that virtually put the game away with 20 seconds remaining—the Clippers resorted to alley-oops, not by design, but because the Warriors took away all other options. Lob City was in the house.
Points In The Paint
The Clippers outscored the Warriors 62-38 in points in the paint. That is all.
Luck plays a part in any game seven in any sport—especially in a game seven. Whether a few bounces go your way, a few of your guys get hot, or your opponent has an off night, “it’s better to be lucky than good” is an old sports cliché for a reason. Tonight there were many messy plays where the Clippers came out with the ball. Some could be credited to hustle, but you always need the basketball gods to smile down on you in these situations.
Improved defense (particularly against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson)
There was a lot of talk heading into game seven that the Splash Brothers were due for a breakout. TNT analyst and legendary three-point shooter Reggie Miller predicted Curry and Thompson to explode for a combined 60. But despite Curry’s great game, the Warriors’ young backcourt combined for 48 and 11-for-28 shooting.
Blake Griffin became Blake Griffin when Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury during the regular season. Even when Paul returned, he seemed perfectly fine deferring to Griffin in big plays, which helped boost Griffin’s confidence and helped him flourish. But after an up-and-down series in which Paul was never quite the Chris Paul we’re accustomed to seeing, he turned into the fearless stone-cold killer we’re used to seeing. He dictated the tempo of the offense in a game full of turnovers and tense moments.
The Clippers will open the next round on the road against the Thunder, but the schedule has yet to be announced.