STAPLES CENTER — In the end, it came down to free throws and fouls. Plenty of them.
A reviewed and reversed out-of-bounds call put the ball in the Warriors’ hands with 18.9 seconds left.
Golden State, already with the lead, forced the Clippers to foul in the final seconds where Harrison Barnes capitalized on his shots. Chris Paul, who finished with a game-high 28 points, made his way to the foul line on the other side, but wasn’t able to hit.
The foul game continued until Klay Thompson sealed the deal with a final free throw, finishing with a team-high 22 points, and the Warriors beat the Clippers 109-105 in the first of their best-of-seven series.
Speaking of the foul game. Fouls, fouls and more fouls.
In the first nine minutes Andre Iguodala had racked up three fouls — his first two in a four-second span — while Blake Griffin and David Lee sat with two a piece.
Lee said coming into the game and thinking about the situation the team felt like they had nothing to lose:
“We feel like these are two very good basketball teams, and we’re a little shorthanded. So our goal tonight was to come out aggressive. We feel like we have enough players to win this series.”
But players were scarce. By halftime Iguodala, Lee and Griffin had added another foul to their own count and Marreese Spieghts was called for three in the second quarter alone.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said he thought the hype about the drama between the two teams played into how the game was officiated:
“I thought all the hype absolutely had an impact on how the game was called, there’s no doubt about that. A lot of tight touch fouls.”
Despite the foul trouble, Golden State managed to tie the game 52-52 at the half, with Stephen Curry, the only Warrior in double figures with 10 points.
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said his decisions on when to play, or sit, players who were in foul trouble are based on the feel of the game, not based on how many fouls they have:
“I think coaches historically overreacted to foul trouble. At the end of the day you get six and you get six for a reason. I’m not going to allow the quarter to dictate to me if its the right move to make.”
The third quarter opened with Iguodala notching his fifth foul and in the final minutes of the third Griffin was called for his fifth foul allowing the Warriors to squeeze out a 89-79 lead.
The Warriors were able to keep L.A. at arms length through most of the final quarter, but with just over three minutes left Chris Paul hit a three to cut Golden State’s lead to just three points.
On the next possession, Iguodala fouled out of the game before a foul from Harrison Barnes sent DeAndre Jordan to the charity stripe where he made it a one-point game.
Griffin fouled out and shortly after Draymond Green put the Warriors on top 107-105 at the free throw line with 24 seconds left.
The Clippers tried to rally back by stopping the clock, but a free throw from Thompson ended it.
Action resumes in L.A. with Game 2 on Monday at 7:30 p.m. on TNT.