The last thing you want to see as an opposing team is to watch the Golden State Warriors start hot. That’s precisely what happened, though, and it looked like they were on the way to a blowout after seeing the Warriors take a 44-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter. However, the LA Clippers are not the team to ever count out of a game, as they showed through the playoffs last season.
Here are my key takeaways from the 115-113 barnburner.
Hot or cold, you give Steph Curry the ball when it matters
Steph Curry didn’t spend much time finding his shot, after going 5 of 21 in their opener against the Lakers, the Warriors star went 9 of 9 from the field in the first quarter for 25 points. That tied his career high in a first quarter. His shooting was infectious to the rest of the team, as Andrew Wiggins dropped three treys in that first quarter, and Jordan Poole also got into the action with a deep three taken with no regard.
Curry went pretty cold after that, and even sat for a long time between the third and fourth quarters before finally coming back into the game with a little under six minutes left. The greatest shooter in NBA history took a while to find his rhythm, but when it mattered, he was vintage Steph Curry. WIth everyone on the line, he hit a three with just under two minutes left, and then another one 56.8 seconds left, then iced the game with a pair of free throws that left a Clippers team with no timeouts no choice but to try a hail Mary play that didn’t work out.
Oh, and I should also mention that Curry grabbed an important rebound in the clutch that gave him a double-double of 45 points, 10 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block with 6 turnovers. While his turnovers were a cause for concern, at the end of the day who gives a shit if he’s just going to make the baskets that win you the game in the end. Curry finished the game making 16 of 25 shots, 8 of 13 threes, and was a perfect 5 of 5 from the charity stripe. That’s quite a way to celebrate being named to the list of the NBA’s 75 (well technically 76) greatest players.
Curry looks like he’s going to make another run at the scoring title, averaging 33 points in his first two games, but the Dubs can’t get too reliant on him, as great as he is. The rest of their starters combined for 42 points, and their bench gave them 28. Curry can go cold as all shooters do, like he did against the Lakers in their first game, so someone else is going to have to be their reliable second option.
Overall, the Warriors again showed that they are an unselfish team with 27 assists on 43 made baskets, but they’re going to have to figure out their turnover problem. They had 21 for the game and their starting back court of Curry and Jordan Poole combined for 13 of those.
The Clippers don’t understand the concept of giving up
The Clippers could have understandably phoned it in after getting their asses kicked in the first quarter, but guys like Paul George aren’t built like that. Instead of getting their heads down, they re-summoned their playoff form, said fuck you, and punched the Warriors right in the mouth while outscoring them 66-46 in the second and third quarters combined to take a 93-90 lead heading into the fourth.
Even with a loss, their confidence in themselves as a team will grow thanks to the collective effort that everyone chipped in. Six Clippers scored in double figures, led by Paul George’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 6 assist effort. Based on his first game, if the Clippers have a good season George could be a dark horse candidate for MVP.
Eric Bledsoe had himself a good debut in his return to the Clippers, who he started his career with in the 2010-11 season. He finished with 22 points on 10 of 16 shooting. All of their starters had at least 10 points, and Terance Mann had 11 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.
Reggie Jackson had an off night, shooting 4 of 19 while making 3 of 9 triples, but it’s good to see that he’s still confident in taking shots. He made a big three with 4:27 left in the game that brought them within two, then assisted for a Marcus Morris three that gave the Clippers a lead with 2:45 left. When that shot starts falling again, the Clippers are going to be hard to beat.
Tyronn Lue deserves a lot of credit with how he kept his men focused during the game.
Draymond Green rediscovered his aggressive side on offense
Draymond Green took a couple of hits in the game, but it was interesting to see him get aggressive in attacking the paint. During an important third quarter, where the Clippers were tying the game and taking small leads, Green kept the Warriors in the game by attacking the basket and imposing his will even with a much larger Ivica Zubac guarding him. That’s going to be a boon for the Warriors, because if he’s attacking the basket and creates attention there, it opens up the game even more. Green is an excellent facilitator, as evidenced by his 10 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists with only a single turnover.
What will be concerning for the Warriors, though, is his bad free throw shooting to start the season off with. He shot 2 of 4 from the stripe against the Lakers, then followed that up with a 2 of 9 performance against the Clippers. An aggressive Green is great, but he’ll be even more dangerous if he can get back to the 79.5% he shot last season. He’s a career 71.4% shooter from the line, so the hit to the wrist that he took in the game could have played a factor.
Green and Nemanja Bjelica look to quickly be forming an on-court connection too, and when the two of them were on the court, especially in the third, they were in sync. Having the luxury of fielding those two as your primary ball handlers when Curry sits isn’t something to sneeze at.
NOTES FROM TODAY’S OTHER GAMES:
Much like the North, Jimmy Butler and the Heat remember
If anyone was wondering if Miami had a chip on their shoulder after getting bulldozed 4-0 in the playoffs last season, they’ve got their answer. They got some Game of Thrones-level revenge on their rivals today.
Injuries to starters Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday certainly weren’t good for the Milwaukee Bucks, but that still doesn’t excuse how they got their asses handed to them by the Miami Heat. Losing 137-95 puts a huge dampener on the start to their season, considering that the Bucks whooped the Nets 127-104 on opening night.
It was such a bad whooping that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton only played for 23 minutes apiece after the Heat took a 40-17 first quarter lead and never looked back.
Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo combined for 41 points, 17 rebounds and 7 assists. Tyler Herro looked to build on his strong preseason and led the team in scoring with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while coming off the bench. Perhaps the most surprising thing that happened in this blowout is how Udonis Haslem didn’t see any token minutes, considering that Erik Spoelstra gave everyone else on the bench a run.
Must have been an interesting night for PJ Tucker, too. After helping bring the Bucks a title, he got to beat them on his first game after switching sides.
Even when he’s missing, Trae Young is still a problem
It looks like Trae Young took a page out of Steph Curry’s book in his season opener against the Dallas Mavericks. With his shot not falling (6 of 16), he orchestrated the Atlanta Hawks offense with precision and finished with 19 points and 14 assists and a game-best plus/minus of +21.
All five Hawks starters scored in double figures, but Cam Reddish led the team in scoring off the bench with 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting. It was a close game in the first half, with the Hawks leading 51-44, but they blew the game open with a 35-20 third quarter and never looked back. De’Andre Hunter’s defense was a pretty big deal too.
Young didn’t mince words when asked about Hunter’s contribution to this young and hungry Hawks team.