David Lee and Stephen Curry dominated the Clippers on Wednesday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
It's a point I've made after both the first and second round of ballot results in the fan voting for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game — the lack of recognition that Stephen Curry and David Lee are getting for their sensational early-season play with the Golden State Warriors is a bummer. Well, they'd better be getting some attention now.
The Warriors' star point guard and power forward combined for 55 points on 20 for 32 shooting, 19 rebounds and 15 assists on Wednesday night, propelling Golden State to a 115-94 punking of the formerly red-hot but now reeling Los Angeles Clippers. It was the Dubs' fourth straight win and seventh in the last 10 games, pushing them to 22-10 on the season.
Golden State's dynamic duo took turns dominating, with Curry coming out of the gate white-hot (11 points on 4 for 5 shooting in the first quarter, 25 on 9 for 11 shooting in the first half) and Lee taking over after intermission (18 points on 7 for 11 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists in the third and fourth). Taken together, their brilliant play — not only offensively, but also on the defensive end, where Curry did able early work on L.A. All-Star Chris Paul and Lee holding his own in the post against the likes of likely All-Star starter Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (with some help from their friends, of course) — seized control of the game and, as their head coach saw it, gave prospective All-Star voters a reason to cast ballots in their favor, according to Antonio Gonzalez of The Associated Press:
"If my two guys didn't make a statement, I don't know what else they have to," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. Later, he added, "Maybe I'll hold my own game if these two guys aren't in there."
The Warriors made the Clippers pay early and often in transition, going 9 for 14 (64.3 percent) from the floor and 5 for 6 from 3-point land in 16 transition possessions, according to game-charting data from Synergy Sports Technology. Add an and-one foul shot on this awesome second-quarter Curry runner:
... and that makes for a sterling total of 24 points on those 16 possessions. Eight of those points — 3-balls by sharpshooters Curry and Klay Thompson, who went 5 for 9 from deep and finished with 19 points on 50 percent shooting, and a fast-break dunk by rookie wing Harrison Barnes, who chipped in 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block — came during a 15-1 first-quarter run that tilted the game in a hurry.
The Warriors also got four more on a pair of non-transition plays that still took advantage of the Clippers' early lack of defensive urgency — an easy opening-minute jumper that Lee created by busting it downcourt off a Willie Green turnover and beating Jordan to a good position on the right block for a quick face-up J that Lee's made at a 44 percent clip this season (per NBA.com's stat tool), and a wide-open layup created by the Clippers ambling back and ball-watching following a Green 3-point miss, and both Jordan and Paul somehow completely forgetting about Curry, who cut to the basket for a high-low feed from Lee and an easy deuce.
The Clips' transition defense picked up a bit several minutes into the second quarter — a period that coincided with Curry being off the floor for the Dubs and defensive chaos-demon Eric Bledsoe being on the floor for the Clips, which means it's not really a coincidence — which led to the Warriors' offense bogging down, the Clips getting out in transition themselves and a 7-2 run that made it a two-possession game. Then Curry came back in and promptly hit consecutive 3s to push the lead back to 10; several minutes later, after the Clippers again drew within five, Curry found Barnes for a dunk and then ripped off eight straight to restore the lead to 13.
After halftime, it was Lee's turn, giving the Clippers' bigs fits with pick-and-pop jumpers, post-ups on both sides of the lane and board-crashing; he thoroughly and fundamentally outclassed Griffin, who scored 10 points, grabbed only six rebounds in 35 minutes, and missed nine of his 11 field-goal attempts, including this juuuuuuust-a-bit-off corner 3:
Which the Oracle Arena crowd enjoyed just a tad.
Lee also kept the Clippers' defense scrambling with his deft passing, notching seven assists, including two that led to layups and four that created 3-pointers for either Thompson or Curry; in a way, his awareness and ability to move the ball accurately is perhaps as integral to the Warriors' offensive spacing as the backcourt's shooting is, argues Ethan Sherwood Strauss at WarriorsWorld:
David Lee does help carve out what little daylight the backcourt sees. He’s a point forward, especially adept at bouncing the ball out to the perimeter like a swinging pinball paddle. He might not be a stretch-four, but he finds open space rather than creating it with the threat of a three pointer.
And the Warriors made sound use of all that space in their their second win of the season over the division-leading rival Clips, much as they did the first time they faced Vinny Del Negro's squad. In Golden State's two wins over L.A., according to Hoopdata's advanced box scores, the Warriors have scored 229 points in 202 possessions — a 113.4-per-100 clip that's rate better than the NBA-best Oklahoma City Thunder offense — against a Clipper D that ranks as the league's third-stingiest.
That's pretty nuts, but not quite as nuts as what the surprisingly stingy Warriors defense was able to do to the Clippers' top-five offense, which put the clamps on Paul's orchestrations early, as detailed by Rob Mahoney at SI.com's The Point Forward, and repeatedly harassed Clipper shooters with aggressive and timely closeouts to turn open shots into contested ones, as illustrated by SB Nation's Mike Prada. The inability of Griffin (2 for 11), Green (2 for 10) and Bledsoe (0 for 7) to hit the broad side of a barn sure helped, but still, the Warriors defense deserve plenty of credit for holding an offense that came into last night averaging 107.4 points per 100 possessions to just 93.1-per-100.
Curry finished with 31 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals; he's now ninth in the league in scoring at 20.4 points per game, second in 3-pointers made, third in 3s attempted, fourth in long-range accuracy, sixth in free-throw percentage and in the top 15 in minutes, assists and steals per game. Lee finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals; he is now 10th in the league in scoring at 20.2 points per game, fourth in the league in rebounding at 11 a night and seventh in the league in Win Shares, according to Basketball-Reference.com. And they're doing it all for a team that's now 22-10 — the sixth-best record in the NBA and just 2 1/2 games out of the Pacific Divsion lead, virtually all without expected defensive anchor and starting center Andrew Bogut.
If that's not worthy of a few more All-Star votes, then I'm not sure what would be (especially for Lee, who's yet to even crack the top-15 among frontcourt players out West). Maybe fans need to start drinking an evening cup of coffee to make sure they're catching these guys night in and night out.