LOS ANGELES — The Clippers ran them down, ran down the Warriors, beat them 126-121. The Clippers came at the Warriors like fate. The Clippers wouldn't stop and the Warriors couldn't stop them.
The Clippers began the third quarter down eight points, had trailed by as many as 12. The Clippers had been slow and careless, their ball-handling and shooting brutal. They were ready to be taken. The Warriors were going to advance, about to fly to Oklahoma City for the second round of these playoffs.
And then the Warriors just stopped. Or maybe the Clippers came on. The Clippers' stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul had seemed so earthbound and vulnerable in the first half. The Warriors — see Draymond Green — had taken away Griffin's inside game, Griffin reverting to the crude, desperate player he used to be, Griffin bulling his way inside, using his head like a battering ram, the Warriors blocking off his moves and stealing the ball. Griffin would look at the refs, his eyes sad, a look of moral indignation on his face. This was not supposed to be happening.
Chris Paul, L.A.'s other superstar, was wounded. Before the game, Doc Rivers had said, “He can't get away from anyone.” He meant Paul couldn't get off his shot, although Paul finished with 22 points and 14 assists. Paul couldn't defend either, Curry running him ragged, Rivers putting Darren Collison on Curry partway into the first quarter just to rest Paul's aching hamstring.
Then Paul and Griffin got well. Don't ask me how. Those two and the rest of the Clippers ran down the Warriors, ran them down, ran them out of the game, out of the series and out of the playoffs. The Clippers took their first lead at 6:01 of the third quarter on a two-point jumper by J.J. Reddick with an assist from Paul. And they kept running. Ran away.
Griffin took over in the fourth quarter, just took over. Made a driving layup with less than a minute to go. Put L.A. up by 5. All of a sudden, he had become a different player. Superman. And the Warriors couldn't stop him.