BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The Golden State Warriors came out on the wrong end of the worst collapse in NBA Playoff history Monday night, blowing a 31 point third quarter lead on the way to a 135-131 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on their home court.
Trailing 94-63 with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter, the Clippers proceeded to outscore Golden State 72-37 to stun the suddenly lethargic Warriors and tie the opening round of the Western Conference Playoffs at a game apiece. The Clips took advantage of 16 Warriors turnovers to score 29 points in the second half of the game.
The game was further marred by a potentially serious injury to Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins just four minutes into the game. In just his second career playoff game, Cousins collapsed in pain, grabbing his left thigh in front of the Warriors bench after chasing down a loose ball. It’s initially being described as “significant” left quad injury with an MRI scheduled for Tuesday.
The Clippers bench outscored the Warriors reserves 83-48, with Lou Williams leading all scorers with 36 points and 11 assists and Montrezl Harrell adding 25 points and ten rebounds in relief. Starting forward Danilo Gallinari also scored 24.
Steph Curry led the Warriors with 29 points, but missed considerable playing time with foul trouble in the third quarter as Los Angeles started their comeback. Kevin Durant was a non-factor, seemingly rattled by the aggressive defensive tactics of the Clippers Patrick Beverley. Durant scored 21, but he only took eight shots from the field while making nine turnovers and fouling out. Kevon Looney was one bright spot for the Warriors, setting a career high in any game with 19 points off the bench with perfect 6-6 shooting from the field.
After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what type of message he had for his team after this type of loss. “Well, we stopped playing. We kind of disconnected mid-third quarter and lost our defensive edge. They scored 85 points in the second half. So we kind of messed with the game a little bit. When you do that, you’re in some trouble, especially in the playoffs.”
He added, “Once you lose momentum in a game, against a really good team, it’s hard to get it back. So we really lost this game mid-third quarter when we stopped playing. Our defense was great for two and a half quarters, then we stopped defending. We stopped playing defense, offense, and executing. We were not as engaged as we needed to be. We got exactly what we deserved.”
The series now heads south to Los Angeles for a pair of games with Game 3 tipping off at 7:40PM Thursday night at the Staples Center.
The loss snapped a seven-game postseason winning streak for Golden State. The Warriors are now 20-2 in the last 22 playoff games at Oracle Arena. Their only other loss was in Game 4 of last season’s Western Conference Finals to the Houston Rockets.
The game marked the first Warriors playoff loss in the shot-clock-era (1954-55) in which the team led by 15-or-more points at halftime.
The Clippers became just the second team in NBA history to trail by 23-or-more points at the half and come back to win. Cleveland overcame a 25-point halftime deficit on April 20, 2017 at Indiana, according the the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Warriors (40) and the Clippers (44) both scored 40-plus points in the second quarter, marking the first time two teams have each had a 40-point quarter in the same playoff game since Sacramento and Dallas both scored 40-or-more in the first quarter on May 8, 2013.
The Clippers’ 83 points off then bench were the second most scored in a postseason game since 1970-71. The most was 86 bench points by Dallas on May 8, 2011.