OAKLAND, Calif. -- It's understandable the Warriors feel wronged after the result, given that Chris Paul made contact with Stephen Curry on the game's final shot. When asked if Paul fouled him, Curry succinctly answered, "100 percent," while also elaborating further with, "Point of emphasis this year is you can't body-contact a guy shooting a jump shot, so, I thought that's what happened."
While you can hardly fault their frustration, it's difficult to come away from the game believing Golden State to be the better team. It trailed for three quarters and needed a couple of furiously contested Curry 3-pointers to get within striking distance. Though the Warriors feel robbed, victory would have meant stealing this game.
It was a spirited comeback from 18 points down in the third quarter, though, and the Warriors should be credited for it. They went small, blitzed the Clippers and nearly wrenched away victory from a team that was looking indomitable. Much of the late surge was created by Golden State's indefatigable utility player Draymond Green, who ended the game with 13 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. All three of the steals came in during the frantic fourth-quarter comeback.
"We just defend, scrapping, got out in the open floor," Green said of the small-ball push. The fourth-quarter success was a reminder of Warriors' struggles throughout the season, flaws that will probably prove fatal now that Andrew Bogut's out with a rib injury.
The Splash Brothers define one of the NBA's most "exciting" teams, an explosive offense that bombs long shots from all directions. Anyone who watches the Warriors closely knows they deliver more frustration than thrills on the offensive end. Their calling card is defense, and their defense requires Bogut's presence. They have been roughly average on offense, ranking 12th among teams this season in points per possession.
Long-run issues were on display for much of the first half. The Warriors like to run Curry off the ball frequently, but they lack either the playmakers or system to take advantage of this approach. Half-court sets often stall with Andre Iguodala or Steve Blake dribbling at the top of the circle, watching the shot clock evaporate.
This style got crushed by an attentive Clippers defense through three quarters of action. Running Curry off the ball can work when he's not being guarded by a locked-in Paul. It's been a futile slog for much of these three games, and it's reflected in Golden State's last-place postseason offensive rating.
When Curry did have the ball, the floor was often spaced poorly, with two bigs who don't command closeouts from distance. Compounding matters, the Warriors, as they have for much of the season, leaned on a helping of isolation postups.
Going small freed Golden State from this funk, fueling a fast pace with transition opportunities. It might be easy to conclude that downsizing would have prevented the necessity for a giant comeback. Mark Jackson wasn't so sure, saying of the small-ball success, "No, we were not playing well. We turned the basketball over too much. We just got out of character. I thought we tried to do too much at times offensively instead of trusting our offense."