On a night when 3-pointers ruled, it was a floating Stephen Curry layup with 0.5 seconds remaining that proved to be the difference.
The Warriors had to survive 18 Clippers 3’s to sneak away with a 129-127 win at Oracle Christmas Eve eve.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors (23-11) with 42 points on 12-of-22 shooting and six 3’s, and was joined in the 30-club by Kevin Durant who had 35 of his own, along with 12 rebounds and five assists.
And while it was Durant who sunk the Mavs Saturday with a clutch 3, this time Curry iced the game on a last-second layup with Montrezl Harrell draped all over him.
Durant said that when they are in the zone everything else just falls away:
“You just get lost in the game. You don’t really realize what you’re doing out there, or how many points you got, or how many points your teammate has. We try not to think about like, ‘oh we got it rolling tonight,’ we just try to be the best we can in the present. And you can tell Steph was locked in on just the moment.”
The team relied on their high-scoring duo to pour in over 120 points for the second night in a row, but once again their defense lagged far behind their offense.
The Warriors took their cues from the Dallas defense the previous night and refused to get a hand up on any Clipper shooter.
Anytime Golden State successfully ran them off the line, the Clippers (19-14) would either turn it over or settle for an awkward midrange floater.
But they did that only a handful of times, every other defensive possession saw any and every Clipper rail open looks from deep.
Los Angeles ended the first half 13-of-16 from 3, the most 3’s in franchise history and an NBA record in the first half — and the Warriors were still content with sagging off the 3-point line.
Steve Kerr said he has never seen a statline like he did Sunday:
“They couldn’t miss out there. Tobias 6-of-7, Gallinari 5-of-5, they were rolling. Some of that was us the first half, late closeouts, not into the ball. But you got to make the shot and they were making them. And they were executing too, some of them were just really good execution.”
The only reason Golden State entered the half down just four points was that the Clippers couldn’t keep their hands to themselves and put the Warriors on the line for 28 free throws before halftime.
What was scary for the Warriors was that the shooting percentages were astoundingly similar, with the Clippers shooting 81.3 percent from 3 and Golden State shooting 85.7 percent from the line.
It’s the exact opposite of what you would think would happen coming into the game with the Warriors second in the league in 3-point percentage, and the Clippers leading the league in free throws attempted per game.
Kerr said he thought all the fouls were a strategy to get the Warriors out of rhythm:
“The first half was just a foul fest. I understood their strategy, they wanted to keep us out of our flow and our rhythm. And they did a good job of that. Just trying to frustrate us and keep the game a little choppy, and by doing that and making all those 3’s they really controlled much of the game.”
The Warriors were able to tighten up their defense in the second half though as they held the Clippers to just seven attempted 3’s after the half — although their percentage remained high as they finished 75 percent from deep.
And while that was still troubling, they cut down on enough of their looks to scooch past the Clippers on the scoreboard.
But their 3’s reared their ugly head toward the end of the game and made closing minutes much tighter than the Warriors wanted. But Curry’s layup and timely defense nudged the Warriors ahead for good.
Draymond Green led the defense, making a more concerted effort to get the Clippers off the line, and even threw in two 3’s of his own. Green scored 14 and broke double-digits for the second night in a row, which is the first time all season he’s put together two games of 10 or more points.
But Green said his focus wasn’t on trying to keep pace with the Clippers but trying to shut them down defensively:
“The thought is always to get stops. I think our defense was a little better in the second half, but they shot the ball great. For us to come out with a win when a team is shooting like that says a lot about us. We kept our turnovers low and I think that’s why we won the game.”
Their overall team defense was still porous, the Warriors were able to plug up enough holes to eke out a win.
It was just enough to overcome the best 3-point shooting night in NBA history — but the bad news being that they gave it up in the first place.
The Warriors now have a day to rest and finish wrapping their presents before squaring off against the Los Angeles Lakers Christmas night.
Curry had his 33rd career 40-point game in the regular season, and already his third this season. And his game-winner marked the seventh time in his career he’s had a go-ahead bucket with five seconds or fewer on the clock.