The Clippers exposed some cracks in the Warriors facade but Kevin Durant led Golden State to a locked-in, series-clinching win in Game 6.
A lack of focus, consistent effort and execution have made the Warriors look as vulnerable as at any point during the past three seasons with Kevin Durant. The Clippers had taken advantage, winning two games in Oakland and putting plenty of pressure on Golden State to come up big in Game 6 on the road.
And boy, did they ever.
Kevin Durant led them through a back-and-forth first-quarter but exploded in the second to give Golden State a 19-point lead at halftime. Durant put-up 38 in the first half, tying an NBA postseason record in the process. He finished with 50 points on 26 shots. The Warriors led by as much as 26, bottled up Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell and, despite relatively quiet nights from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, will be cruising into a second-round matchup against the Rockets.
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
What are the Warriors going to do at center? Since DeMarcus Cousins’ injury, Golden State has been splitting their center minutes up between Andrew Bogut, Kevan Looney and Draymond Green. There is a certain comfort level with Bogut, given his history with the team and his exceptional passing ability, but the Warriors have actually looked more vulnerable when he was on the floor. The Warriors were plus-4.3 points per 100 possessions with Bogut on the floor, but a team-best plus-31.8 points per 100 possessions with Looney on the floor. In Game 6, Steve Kerr opted to start Shaun Livingston and move Green to the starting center position. It worked in this game with Green taking charge of coordinating on defense and playing as engaged and aggressive on offense as he has at any point in the series. They were also +17 in the 14 minutes Looney played. As they look forward to Houston, Golden State is probably going to need to limit Bogut’s minutes but they also don’t seem comfortable with Looney playing huge minutes and that could increase the load on Green.
The Clippers deserve a standing ovation. They lost by some big margins when they lost but taking two road games from the Warriors is an incredible feat, even without the historic comeback in Game 2. There may be some different faces here next season but the Williams-Harrell pick-and-roll looks like an incredible weapon and this serious was an invaluable learning experience for Shai Gilegous-Alexander and Landry Shamet, who look like they could be one of the best backcourts in the NBA in a few seasons. They give it their all and accomplished more than they probably reasonably could have expected to. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Are the Warriors setting themselves up for a struggle with the Rockets? Durant has been incredibly assertive in this series, leading the team in shot attempts by a fairly wide margin. He’s one of the greatest individual scorers in NBA history but in last season’s Western Conference Finals, the Warriors showed they were more than comfortable with letting him go off, if it meant isolations and post-ups, slowing down the movement in Golden State’s offense that Thompson and Curry thrive on. If that pattern is already established and further ingrained, the Rockets could have some of their strategic work done for them.