HALFTIME GAME 1: CLIPPERS & WARRIORS TIED, GRANGER BACK
LOS ANGELES – In a “wave of red” inside a hazy Staples Center that followed a pregame laser and pyrotechnics show, the Clippers pounced on the Golden State Warriors early.
It was a perfect defensive start to Game 1 for the Clippers, who had emerged as one of the five best defensive teams in the league over the two months of the regular season. They held the Warriors without a field goal for the first 4:22, forced David Lee into three turnovers on the opening three possessions of the game and contested everything Golden State threw at the rim, earning a 12-1 lead.
But fouls and turnovers and what felt something like a 24-minute wild scramble evened things out. And after Harrison Barnes made a pair of free throws with 0.2 seconds left in the half, the Clippers and Warriors headed to the locker room tied at 52.
DeAndre Jordan had nine points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots, tying Elton Brand’s team postseason record. He played all but 44 seconds of the half. J.J. Redick added 10 points in 14 minutes.
And Chris Paul finished the half with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists, but seemed to uncharacteristically force shots on a couple of possessions and committed three turnovers.
Paul’s half somewhat summed up the half as a whole. There were moments were the game was packed with action, but foul trouble and a combined 21 turnovers made it feel more like a slugfest.
Fouls were problematic for both teams. Blake Griffin played just four first-half minutes after picking two fouls in the first quarter and a third seconds after checking back in. Andre Iguodala had four first-half fouls. Lee and Marresse Speights had three. Four Clippers players had two.
The Clippers were 11-for-19 from the foul line, while Golden State went 8-for-11
Klay Thompson started 1-for-5, but still had eight points in the half and Stephen Curry had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists. The Warriors climbed closer with a 9-3 run and tied the game at 20 on a Steve Blake 3-pointer.
And even after Jamal Crawford’s half-court heave at the first-quarter buzzer gave the Clippers a five29-24 lead, the Clippers never again could establish a larger advantage.
Danny Granger, who had not played since Mar. 27 (nine games) due to a strained left hamstring, checked in with 1:33 left in the first quarter. He missed his first four shots, including a 3-pointer from the right corner that rattled out after falling halfway down and a spinning layup around Thompson in the second.
Before the game, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said he did not know what to expect from Granger after such an extended absence.
“Danny has been injured a lot in his career, so he probably knows how to handle it I’m assuming better than a lot,” Rivers said. “But I have no idea how he’s going to look. The tough part for me is if he gets off to a slow start, then I’ve got to make a tough decision or let him play through it. It’s stuff you don’t want to have to have, but it’s going to happen.”
Still, Granger was able to contribute. Despite the misses, he looked comfortable, cutting off a driving angle by Jordan Crawford on way play, shooting the ball in rhythm and crashing the boards.
He finished the half with two points, two rebounds and an assist in 11 minutes, which were likely extended due to Griffin’s foul trouble. Both of his boards came on the offensive glass and resulted in baskets. He tipped in a Matt Barnes miss on the break and tipped out a missed free throw by Jordan that led directly to a 3-pointer by Paul.