In the shadow of the Donald Sterling scandal, the Warriors rebounded from back-to-back losses to beat the Clippers 118-97 in Game 4 at Oracle Arena. The series, now tied at 2-2, shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Tuesday.
• The Warriors' lineup adjustment worked. The Clippers imposing frontcourt duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan dominated the paint in Games 2 and 3, teaming up for 92 points and 45 rebounds against a depleted Warriors front line. Heading into Game 4, Golden State appeared in store for more of the same, but the Warriors did have one tactical tweak in their arsenal – one that worked in the second half of Game 3, as they rallied from 18 points down.
Golden State’s small lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, David Lee and Andre Iguodala posted a 31.7 net rating in Games 1-3, the highest among qualifying Warriors lineups, and a 34.2 mark during the regular season, third-highest in the league. While not having a true center like Jermaine O’Neal on the floor ran the risk of Griffin and Jordan further dominating inside, the Warriors could afford to gamble. A pivotal Game 4 Sunday demanded they not stick with the same primary lineup that was partially responsible for two previous losses.
Simply put: small ball worked. The Warriors, with their downsized starting five, attacked Los Angeles with a barrage of threes and layups. At the 7:41 mark, before the Clippers could catch their breath, the Warriors led 15-6. With 3 minutes and nine seconds remaining in the first, Iguodala dunked to push the lead to 17. After scoring just 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting in Game 3, Curry came out firing, draining his first five threes as the noise level at Oracle Arena reached a climax. This was quintessential Curry, making defenders pay by exploiting small slivers of space, his release compact and pure, heat check after heat check splashing the net. Only referee Joey Crawford managed to cool him off.
• Curry had some help. While Curry scored a game-high 33 points on 10-of-20 shooting and 7-of-14 from beyond the arc, complimentary contributions from Lee, Iguodala and Thompson and Harrison Barnes played a big hand in the win. The Warriors shot 55 percent from the field and 47 percent from three-point range.
After catching fire in the first quarter, Curry missed five straight threes. When the Clippers sliced the deficit to 11, on a three from J.J. Redick late in the third quarter, Barnes responded with a run-stopping pull-up jumper. Early in the fourth, after a floating layup from Crawford, Iguodala dunked to make it 91-73, one of several jams from the veteran forward, who finished with 22 points and nine assists. Lee, who managed just 23 combined points in Games 2 and 3, scored 15 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting and also grabbed six rebounds. And while his stat line (four points, five assists, five rebounds) may not show it, Green put forth a strong effort on both ends of the floor, playing effective defense on Griffin and helping move the ball on offense.
• A silent protest against Sterling. Before the game, Clippers players huddled at center court, removed their blue shooting shirts and tossed them into a pile on the floor. They then proceeded through warm-ups wearing their red tops turned inside out. Black socks, leg sleeves and wristbands were also worn with blue uniforms. All of it amounted to an apparent protest against Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who is alleged to have made racist remarks on a recording released Friday by TMZ.
Sterling agreed not to attend the game per the NBA's request, but his wife, Rochelle, answered questions from reporter Lisa Salters. Sterling's wife said she is not racist and that she does not condone the racist statements purportedly made by her husband, according to Salters. At halftime, Kevin Johnson, who is assisting the NBA Players Union in its search for a new executive director, called for punitive measures against Sterling. “There must be sanctions that make it clear that the NBA family will have zero tolerance for such conduct. Today, tomorrow, forever,” Johnson said.
More SI.com NBA playoff coverage
NBA playoff predictions: SI experts give series-by-series picks