OAKLAND — Kevin Durant has it all figured out. “They’re playing loose, with nothing to lose,” he said about the other team, the Los Angeles Clippers, the team that right there on the floor of the Oracle ran circles, rings and cubes around the Warriors.
“Those shots,” said Durant, about the Clippers shooting 54 percent, “they don’t have no pressure from the start to the finish, especially as a number eight seed.”
But the Warriors, the “back-to-back NBA Champions,” as the slogan goes, have a ton of pressure on them. They’re still up three games to two in the first round of the playoffs, the round that was going to be easy — a No. 1 against a No. 8 — and now is a worry.
The Clips, playing offense the way the Warriors used to do, against a Warriors team that played virtually no defense, beat the Dubs, 129-121, Wednesday night. Made them look bewildered. Made them look inefficient.
And so instead of the Dubs moving on to play the Houston Rockets, the nemesis, in the second round, they’re treading water, returning to Los Angeles to face the Clippers in Game 6 of round 1 and reminding people how back in ’07 the eighth-seeded Warriors upset the first-seeded Dallas Mavericks. Yes, anything is possible.
Particularly if the Warriors stand there and gawk while Lou Williams (33 points), Danillo Gallinari (26 points) and Patrick Beverley (14 rebounds) assert themselves.
That Game 2, when the Warriors blew a 31-point lead, also at home, seemed an aberration, one of those “Ye gawds, where did that come from?” results that keeps us from tuning out. But now in Game 5, also at home, the Dubs couldn’t play a lick of D — well, they played a lick, and took the lead in the last quarter, but they couldn’t play a lick of offense.
“That’s the worst-case scenario for any team,” said Durant. “You missing shots and can’t get stops. You feel like you’re in a bottomless pit.”
He means “you” in the collective sense, the Warriors shooting only 44 percent from the floor. He, Durant, hit his shots, 14 of 26, all 12 of his free throws, and scored a massive 45 points, as rumors circulated that Kevin, a free agent, would be joining the Clips next year.
Before the game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said in effect his team couldn’t defend Durant. True. But the Warriors couldn’t defend anyone.
“I spent a year where things haven’t gone exactly smoothly all the time,” said Steve Kerr, the Warriors' coach, responding to a question on whether he saw this game coming from his erratic team.
“I expected to come out and play better and win the game. But it’s the NBA playoffs. You’ve got to defend with some urgency.”
The Clippers spread the floor on offense and, when someone didn’t fire up an open long shot, Williams or JaMychal Green would drive for an uncontested layup or short jumper.
“Everything we did in L.A.” said Kerr on Games 3 and 4, “we did not do tonight. We gave up 129 points on our home floor. And they shot 54 percent. We weren’t right from the very beginning — 37 points we gave up in the first quarter. We just didn’t have it for whatever reason. We had two days' rest, so there’s no reason to be tired.”
Doc Rivers, the Clippers coach, was as satisfied as Kerr was discontented. The probability was that the Clippers were playing their final game of the season and the team’s retiring radio announcer, Ralph Lawler, was working his final game after 40 years. But as the Warriors know the series goes on. So does Lawler.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” said Rivers. “They’re still up, 3-2. But I just loved how we played ... I told our guys they’ve been (what the Warriors were supposed to be), but we have yet to put out a game where we are us.
“Tonight was more like us throughout. We kept attacking. We kept running. We kept spreading the floor and moving the ball. It was Gal (Gallinari). We thought there were places we could put him that would favor him. He came through. He made the shots ... that was our team today.”
Indeed. But was the other team the Warriors?
“I thought we were a little anxious,” said Kerr, “because we were behind.”
Which, of course, was most of the game.