Don't blame the refs. No matter how blind the refs were at the most critical plays in the final moments, teams have the entire game to remove the referees from the equation. The Warriors just weren't able to do it.
Last night, for the second straight game, the Warriors fell to the Clippers, this time 98-96. It wasn't the complete and utter destruction that was Game 2, but for most of Game 3, the Warriors looked just as flat. Here's a quick look at some cherry-picked numbers:
46-43: Clippers lead by three at the half.
8: points gained by the Clippers in the 3rd quarter.
22: total rebounds by DeAndre Jordan.
17: turnovers committed by the Warriors.
31: 3-pointers attempted by the Warriors.
6: 3-pointers made by the Warriors.
12: shots attempted by Stephen Curry.
Those last three numbers kill me. The shot behind the arc is the sword that the Dubs live and die by, and when they go 10-for-50 on 3-pointers (as they have these past two games) that sword will get them Ned Starked — and it has. Meanwhile, the Clippers have done an incredible job in effectively neutralizing Steph Curry. He's arguably the best at his position, and inarguably the best shooter in the game right now, so they can't remove him entirely, but they have taken away that tiniest bit of space and time he needs to get into the video game mode that launched him into national spotlight and the nightmares of defenses in last year's playoffs. So when a defense is limiting the man with the quickest release in the game to just 12 field-goal attempts, they're doing something very right.
Despite three quarters of uninspired play, the Warriors did step up in the 4th Quarter, outscoring the Clippers 32-23. With 4:24 left in the game, the Dubs cut the Clips' lead to just 1, which then sent the Clippers on a 7-0 run and killing two minutes in the process. Klay and Steph then cut that 8-point lead to 6, then 3, and finally back to 1. After the Clippers' Chris Paul missed one of his two free-throws with nine seconds on the clock, the Warriors had the ball and the potential to tie or win the game with one final play. And every single person in the entire world knew exactly who it was going to, and we weren't wrong.
Ok, we already established that we shouldn't blame the refs, right? That, had the Warriors not turned the ball over 17 times, that had they made two or three or four more of their 31 attempted 3-pointers, they would have had this game in hand and wouldn't have to put everything on the last play of the game. The Warriors lost this game in the 3rd Quarter, not in the final nine seconds, and not because of the refs.
Nah, screw that.
These are the playoffs. These are two of the best teams, not just in the Western Conference, but in the entire Association. These two teams have been at each other's throats for the past two seasons, and that they're so evenly matched is why this is one of the most anticipated match-ups whenever they play, playoffs or otherwise. And when two teams of this caliber go head-up, and overcome earlier foibles, and adjust to each others' gameplay and strategy, and gain leads and cut leads, and fight tooth and claw for every single point, GAMES WILL INEVITABLY COME DOWN TO THE LAST PLAY! The scoreline of Game 2 was an aberration; games coming down to the final ticks of the clock is what everyone expected and it is exactly what we got. And what happened?
The refs blew it.
They blew it. Steph gets the ball and goes up for a game-winning three...and airballs it. The best shooter in the game missed a shot that pays his mortgage by a figurative mile. Why? How? Because Chris Paul's entire forearm was shoved up on Steph's hip as he was mid-air, mid-release. I don't know if Steph's shot goes in, but I do know that that is a foul everyday of the week and twice in Miami. I do know that Steph would get three shots from the foul-line and I do know he makes at least two to tie and, since we're in what-could-have-been-land now, he makes all three to win the game.
But the Warriors lost. They lost at home and they lost home-court advantage. All of the pressure is on the Dubs now. The next game is on Sunday. Warriors in six in still on schedule.
Game 1: Warriors won, 109-105
Game 2: Clippers won, 138-98
Game 3: Clippers won, 98-96
Game 4: Sunday, April 27 at Roaracle Arena, 12:30 PM
Game 5: Tuesday, April 29, at L.A., 7:30 PM
Game 6: Thursday, May 1 at Roaracle Arena, time TBD (Warriors win series)
Game 7: Saturday, May 3 at L.A., time TBD (there will be no Game 7)