Here are five takeaways from the game in San Francisco:
1. It’s not how you start, but how you finish (quarters).
The Clippers (6-4) were outscored by four points in the final 2 minutes 25 seconds of the first quarter, by 10 points in the third quarter’s final 2:30, and seven in the fourth quarter’s final 5:15. During those three stretches, the Clippers combined to turn the ball over seven times while the Warriors made 14 of their 20 shots.
“We just got to come in and be able to execute,” Kawhi Leonard said. “If the other team is scoring that easy, you’ve got to come down and get into something on the offensive end. That’s it, but I don’t know — we just have to change, pretty much. We’ve got to change it. We’ve got to get better.”
2. To be a great team, Paul George said the Clippers must “demand greatness out of everybody.”
Highlights from the Clippers’ 115-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday night in San Francisco.
One hour passed between the end of the game and the first postgame interview with a player, and that time included a locker-room discussion of what went wrong and where to go from here.
“We got to be better, all of us included,” George said. “This was a team loss, more than anything, we just got to get better. We’ll work on it. We’ll work on it. I think this is good that something like this happened for this team so early. Because fact of the matter is, we have to be a better closing-out team.”
The Clippers had already blown double-digit leads in the second half three times this season, but they’d ultimately beaten the Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns. This time, they could never recover their footing because they rarely gave themselves the chance. Coach Tyronn Lue felt that Golden State’s small-ball lineup with 6-foot-6 forward Draymond Green at center caused the Clippers’ offense to stagnate because of shaky shot selection when Golden State switched screens. When they missed, the Warriors ran, scoring 14 points in transition during the final 15 minutes.
“Against their switching we could’ve just posted Kawhi a lot more so that’s on me, but our first game against them the other day, our slip-outs, our sticking off picks with Steph Curry was good,” Lue said. The team “was able to generate points off that, so we just didn’t execute the way we did after the first game.”
Said Leonard: “A lot of time it did get stagnant and some of us didn’t know the play we were running. We have to know what we’re running, execute it and then live with the make or misses.”
3. Was this another case of early-season hiccups amid an unpredictable NBA season where few leads are safe? Or are there troubling trends developing? “A little bit of both,” Lue said.
“Taking care of the basketball is one, because they had 28 points off of our 19 turnovers,” Lue said. “But also just continuing to keep playing the same way, don’t get comfortable and start taking some bad shots, some questionable shots, then they get out in transition and were able to make some shots as well.”
It was the second consecutive game the Clippers turned the ball over 19 times. Leonard focused on a defense that lost its edge during a “terrible” third quarter.
“Guys coming down and getting either open looks or just walking to the basket and laying up the ball,” Leonard said. “That happened a lot at the beginning of the fourth as well, just giving up easy looks. We have to do that first.”
4. George’s turnover-prone play isn’t overly concerning for Lue because he doesn’t want the forward to dial back his aggressive approach.
By the numbers, George has never before been a better playmaker for others — but he’s also never committed so many turnovers. George entered Friday averaging a career-best 4.8 assists per game. When George plays, he has assisted on nearly a quarter of all the Clippers’ baskets. The rub is that he’s also averaged a career-high 4.3 turnovers.
George scored 25 points in Friday’s loss but had four more turnovers.
Lue acknowledged before tipoff that George has had a “tough time” reading when and where to pass, but said he will live with the growing pains of those adjustments if it means keeping George in attack mode.
“I just love PG being aggressive right now, attacking the basket,” Lue said. “And he has been making the right plays and he is trying to make the right plays and that is the biggest thing right now.”
5. Big picture, Lue’s decision to showcase Leonard by using the famed triangle offense “makes perfect sense,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Lue and Kerr both played on championship teams coached by Phil Jackson that used the triangle offense to highlight stars such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, and given Leonard’s offensive skills, it didn’t surprise Kerr to see the Clippers installing similar concepts this season.
“The offense is a continuous, fluid offense, so if you’re gonna run the triangle, it’s a series of actions based on five players being in positions and making cuts out of read-and-react situations,” Kerr said. “Nobody in the league is doing that anymore, but most of us run concepts from the triangle offense, and I’ve definitely recognized some of those concepts from what you mentioned. They’ve put Kawhi in some of the positions where Michael Jordan was, or Kobe, in Phil Jackson’s offense. So it makes perfect sense.
“Kawhi is a great mid-range shooter; the triangle generates a lot of offense in the midrange, which is one of the reasons it has faded in the modern game — most people are shooting threes — but I think Ty has implemented a few different concepts from the triangle that have put Kawhi in good situations, so I think it’s smart.”