After sliding to the baseline in San Francisco after Phoenix’s Chris Paul late Monday, Stephen Curry claimed the basket and the last word.
“This is not 2014 anymore,” the Golden State star told his longtime fighter as the cameras rolled.
Paul later claimed not to know the reference, but on his podcast, Currys Warriors teammate Draymond Green explained its underlying meaning — it’s been a long time since Paul could be considered a better player.
The remark was made inside the Chase Center. I felt it in the hearts clippers.
Nine years ago, the Clippers were in the lead, headlined by Paul in point guard. Even the fallout from former owner Donald Sterling’s suspension on the eve of the postseason wasn’t enough to prevent them from winning first-round series against Curry and Golden State.
But while the Clippers never got over the hump of the postseason, Golden State has summited the NBA mountain four times since. The 2014 series against Paul and the Clippers remains the last of a seven-game series the Warriors lost to a Western Conference opponent. Even in the midst of a 2022-23 Jekyll & Hyde season in which the Warriors were 29-7 at home and went into Wednesday 7-26 on the road, the Warriors remain the benchmark against which all Western competitors are measured, and the last video game coach to lie behind. Curry’s enduring potential for offensive explosiveness.
If the two teams meeting on Wednesday at the Crypto.com Arena was a psychological test, it was also, and more importantly, a practical test.
With teams entering with identical records and the Clippers needing a win to keep their hopes of a tiebreaker alive, Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Paul arrived as the perfect stress test to gauge whether the Clippers, and the improved defense that backed up their three-game winning streak, were real.
They answered with a 134-126 victorya fourth straight win in which Kawhi Leonard and coach Tyrone Low praised the team’s composure amid Curry’s individual display as he finished with 50 points while making 20 of 28 shots, including eight 3-pointers.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve seen it [Steph] “It goes off like this in a quarter,” said Leonard. “Being there before, it kind of helps you stay focused in the moment.”
In their five-game losing streak that began after the All-Stars broke last month, emphatic victories vanished in moments. They flipped that over to start a new line. The Clippers committed to just one turnover in the second half. They grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. Russell Westbrook played perhaps his most disciplined game of the Clippers tenure, with virtually no turnover.
The win separated the Clippers (37-33) and Warriors (36-34) in the standings and once again demonstrated the positive returns from the closing lineup that combined Eric Gordon (16 points) and Terrence Mann (17 points) along with rookies Ivica Zubak (19 points and 16 rebounds). ) and Leonard (30 points) and Paul George (24 points and seven assists).
“I think we’re starting to know our inclinations, we know when someone’s going to pass you the ball or they’re going to cut it off — there’s all kinds of things that go into chemistry that are created by playing with each other,” Leonard said.
For three quarters, a pattern developed: Golden State won in the first minutes behind back cuts and strike manufacture, forcing Lue into a quick timeout. Then the Clippers snap and pull away, usually the result of their defense, before being pulled back by Curry and the Warriors for a frantic finish.
After a Lue timeout two minutes into the third quarter after a 7-0 Warriors lead, the Clippers went on a 16-2 run with their defense once again helping. When George bounced a layup missed by Green, he found Gordon for a 27-foot quick-pointer. When Zubac slid in a SWAT effort from Kevon Looney, Westbrook caught the loose ball and found Gordon again, this time for a 24-foot three-pointer and a 10-point lead. Gordon started the second half after forward Marcus Morris Sr. was ejected late in the second quarter for hitting Green over the shoulders.
They served as a reminder that the most striking element of their transformation was not only that a defense that had slumped since late December came back, but that it also resurfaced at critical moments.
Since allowing a season-high 51 points in a quarter to Memphis, the Clippers have held opponents 40% or worse in seven of the last nine quarters going into Wednesday. Memphis, Toronto and New York combined have gained 31% in the fourth quarters of the Clippers’ three straight wins.
But as has been the case for most of the past decade, Curry has been standing between the Clippers and what they want.
Starting on his score with 4:51 to play in the third quarter, the NBA’s all-time three-point king scored Golden State’s next 12 points, volume spiked when he touched the ball and exploded on a pair of circus touchdown shots as he topped 41. The Warriors shot 65% in the second quarter and 60% in the third as Curry made nine of 11 shots. They finished with 55% shooting, however, and the Clippers’ lead grew to 12 at the start of the fourth quarter, buoyed by Mann doing everything, in every place, and all at once — collecting two offensive rebounds on a possession that ended in a basket and a fumble, scoring again, then drawing an offensive foul on Golden State before the fold.
Then Carrie logged in again. In a span of 72 seconds, the Warriors grabbed six points and the Clippers’ fitness to finish the job was again in question as was George’s ability, with five fouls, to avoid an ejection.
But the Clippers didn’t allow a point with 3:41 remaining until there was 1:13 left—a situation that allowed the teams to grow from six to 13, and with it their winning streak.
This story originally appeared Los Angeles Times.