Below are five things to take from the Clippers’ 126-121 Game 7 victory Saturday over the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center (This goes beyond winning the series, 4-3, facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals and playing Game 1 in OKC on Monday).
1. The Clippers closed out a game that featured four ties and seven lead changes by basically doing everything. Blake Griffin (24 points) and DeAndre Jordan (15 points) threw down lobs. Jordan blocked a shot on Stephen Curry as he drove the lane. The Clippers made all six of their last foul shots. Even when Golden State cut the lead with Curry drawing a foul on a three-point play or Draymond Green three-pointer, the Clippers maintained their poise by scoring on the other end.
2. Jamal Crawford added additional scoring punch. Clippers forward Jamal Crawford never meets a shot he does not like, converting on pull-up jumpers, fadeaways and of course, four-point plays with ease. Warriors forward Jordan Crawford is an inconsistent bench player that had no answer for Jamal on defense yet whose scoring suddenly caught fire. But it was Jamal Crawford who played a large part in the outcome, posting 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting. The most notable moments: Jamal converted on a 4-point play. He nailed two three-pointers from within 26 feet, including one that gave the Clippers a 106-102 lead with 5:31 left.
3. Chris Paul appeared more aggressive. Neither the Clippers nor Paul say much about his respective right hamstring and right thumb injuries. But Paul looked much more comfortable in Game 7 (22 points on 8 of 15 shooting, 14 assists) than in Game 6 (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, eight assists, five rebounds and four turnovers). The Clippers have enough depth where they do not need him to score in bunches. But they do need him to direct the offense with enough energy and purpose to keep their tempo up and their ball movement crisp.
It appears to be a delicate balance considering hamstring injuries can severely worsen through more wear and tear. So the Clippers and Paul will have to be careful. But at least for an elimination game, Paul gutted it out without compromising his health.
4. The Clippers boasted a balanced offense. They showed that their trust went beyond having the slogan “We are one” on T-Shirts and saying all the right things stemming from disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racially disparaging comments. The Clippers played as a team with six players boasting double figures, including Griffin (24 points) Crawford (22 points), Paul (22 points), JJ Redick (20 points), Jordan (15 points) and Matt Barnes (13 points).
5. The Clippers initially struggled with Golden State’s perimeter shooting. Despite sweating through six grueling and physical games, the Clippers apparently lost sight about the obvious. The Warriors jumped out to a 12-point lead after shooting 75 percent from three-point range in the first quarter and 60 percent in the first half.
But the Clippers chipped away to open the full of energy and purpose. The Clippers took their first lead of the game, 73-72 with 6:02 left in the period, after going on an 11-2 run that entailed a flurry of fast-break points, jumpers and dunks. Meanwhile, the Clippers held the Warriors to only a 36.8 percent clip.