LOS ANGELES – There wasn’t going to be another 31-point comeback for the Clippers in Game 3 against the Warriors. Not that Golden State didn’t make it a possibility, extending their lead to 31 midway through the third quarter and seeing it balloon to as much as 36 thanks to a statement-filled performance out of Kevin Durant. The two-time defending NBA Finals MVP finished with 38 points in 30 minutes, including 27 in the first half, and mixed it up with Patrick Beverley once again, channeling whatever frustration he still had into his devastating jumper.
We know who the Warriors are. Nothing in this series will teach us anything new. If there’s anything we’ve learned about this year’s Clippers, though, it’s that they will not quit, even when they’re clearly outmatched and outgunned. And for a team that traded away its leading scorer at the deadline in a move that looked to foreshadow a rebuild and still managed to make the playoffs anyway, every extra minute matters, even the ones in a listless blowout.
Beverley, who has been the team’s heart and soul all year, was in a mostly empty locker room after many of the Clippers’ players had finished showering and packed up their stuff to go home. He was still fired up, proclaiming to no one in particular that this series was far from over.
“It’s one game,” Beverley said. “It’s one game. Keep everybody locked in.”
The Clippers are far from using the nothing to lose/house money excuse, and more power to them, but these moments will make a much bigger impact heading into next season than in an eventual series loss to the defending champs.
“We’re just a resilient, tough-minded group,” Doc Rivers said during his availability prior to Game 3. “I think we’re more talented than we get credit for, I really do. Maybe no superstar, but when you add them all up as a group they’re pretty special. They’re a special group for me to coach for sure.”
Los Angeles already ensured themselves an extra game of experience thanks to their improbable Game 2 comeback. That, in itself, is eye opening against Golden State. It wasn’t that long ago the Warriors were a six-seed against the Nuggets during the 2012-13 playoffs and knocked them off in six games thanks, in part, to a young nucleus of first and second-year players: Draymond Green, Kent Bazemore, and Harrison Barnes were rookies, while Klay Thompson was in his second year.
The Clippers, of course, don’t have a transcendent talent like Curry — who averaged 24.3 points and 9.3 assists while shooting 44 percent from deep in that series — to swing the series. (Curry finished with 21 points in Game 3.)