Sliding down a San Francisco baseline past Phoenix’s Chris Paul on Monday night, Stephen Curry claimed a basket and the last word.
“This isn’t 2014 anymore,” the Golden State star told his former fighter as cameras rolled.
Paul later claimed he was unaware of the reference, but on his podcast, Curry’s Warriors teammate Draymond Green explained its underlying meaning: that it had been so long since Paul could be considered the greatest player.
The comment was delivered inside the Chase Center. He felt at the heart of the Clippers.
Nine years ago, led by Paul at point guard, the Clippers were on the rise. Even the fallout from former owner Donald Sterling’s suspension on the eve of the postseason wasn’t enough to prevent them from winning a first-round series against Curry and Golden State.
But while the Clippers never get over the postseason rut, Golden State has climbed the top of the NBA mountain four times since. The 2014 series against Paul and the Clippers remains the Warriors’ last seven-game series lost to a Western Conference opponent. Even in the midst of a Jekyll and Hyde 2022-23 season in which the Warriors are 29-7 at home and entered Wednesday 7-26 on the road, the Warriors remain the standard against which all players are measured. challengers from the West, the final boss of a video game lurks behind Curry’s ever-present potential for an offensive eruption.
If the teams’ meeting Wednesday at Crypto.com Arena represented a psychic test, it was also, more importantly, pragmatic.
With teams entering with identical records and the Clippers needing a win to keep hopes of claiming a tiebreaker alive, Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole arrived as the perfect stress test to gauge whether the Clippers and the improved defense that underpinned their three-pointer . game winning streak, they were real.
they responded with a 134-126 wina fourth straight victory in which Kawhi Leonard and coach Tyronn Lue praised the team’s composure amid a one-man show from Curry, who finished with 50 points and was 20-of-28 from the shots, including eight 3-pointers.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve seen (Steph) blow up like this in a quarter,” Leonard said. “Being there earlier helps you stay focused in the moment.”
In his five-game losing streak that began after the All-Star break last month, sure wins had disappeared at key moments. They turned that around to start a new streak. The Clippers committed only one turnover in the second half. They grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. Russell Westbrook played perhaps his most disciplined game of his tenure on the Clippers, with no turnovers.
The victory separated the Clippers (37-33) and the Warriors (36-34) in the standings and once again showed the positive results of a closing lineup with Eric Gordon (16 points) and Terance Mann (17 points). ) along with starters Ivica Zubac (19 points, 16 rebounds), Leonard (30 points) and Paul George (24 points, seven assists).
“I guess we’re starting to know our tendencies, knowing when someone is going to pass the ball to you or cut you down; there are all kinds of things that go into chemistry and that’s built by playing with each other.” Leonardo said.
For three quarters, a pattern played out: Golden State won the first few minutes on cutbacks and shots, forcing Lue into a quick timeout. The Clippers then steadied and pulled away, usually a product of their defense, before Curry and the Warriors pushed them back for a frenzied finish.
Following Lue’s timeout two minutes into the third quarter after a 7-0 run by the Warriors, the Clippers began a 16-4 run helped again by their defense. When George recovered Green’s missed layup, he found Gordon for a quick 27-foot 3-pointer. As Zubac slid in to crush Kevon Looney’s layup attempt, Westbrook grabbed the fumble and found Gordon again, this time with a 24-foot 3-pointer and a 10-point lead.
They were reminders that the most surprising element of his recovery was not only that a defense that had floundered since late December had returned, but that it had come back at critical moments.
Since allowing a season-high 51 points in a quarter to Memphis, the Clippers had held opponents to 40% shooting or less in seven of their last nine quarters going into Wednesday. And Memphis, Toronto and New York had all shot a combined 31% in the fourth quarters of those three straight Clippers wins.
But as has been the case for much of the past decade, Curry stood between the Clippers and what they wanted.
Starting with his layup with 4:51 left in the third quarter, the NBA’s all-time 3-point king scored Golden State’s next 12 points, the volume rising when he touched the ball and exploding when a pair of shots of circus. fell by exceeding 41 points. The Warriors shot 65% in the second quarter and 60% in the third as Curry made 9 of 11 shots. They finished on 55% shooting, and yet the Clippers’ lead increased to 12 to open the fourth quarter.
Then Curry went back inside. In a span of 72 seconds, he scored six points and the Clippers’ ability to finish the job was once again in question, as was George’s ability, with five fouls, to avoid being ejected.
But the Clippers didn’t allow a point from 3:41 left to 1:13 left, a position that allowed their lead to increase from six to 13, and with it their winning streak.