LOS ANGELES – The Golden State Warriors captured a surprising and entertaining Game 1 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. Clippers forward Blake Griffin had a great seat to watch most of it.
Griffin played in just 19 minutes of the Clippers' 109-105 first-round series-opening loss. The All-Star forward averaged a career-high 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting a career-high 71.5 free throw percentage this season. But in Game 1, Griffin was limited to 16 points, three rebounds and three assists, leaving the contest with 48.3 seconds left with it all tied up. The disappointing outing was capped with him tossing water – he says inadvertently – on a Warriors fan.
"I obviously wasn't happy with it," Griffin said of his performance.
Griffin's NBA MVP-consideration worthy season made him the biggest threat of any Clipper entering Game 1 versus Golden State. And that's point guard Chris Paul included. Griffin averaged 25 points and 10.5 rebounds against the Warriors in four games.
However, from the jump ball, it appeared that the referees were making a statement that there would be no foolishness allowed between two teams that have demonstrated a great disdain toward each other, including not being able to share a chapel.
The first foul was called on Clippers center DeAndre Jordan 20 seconds into the game. The Clippers had six fouls in the first quarter while the Warriors had eight. The Clippers shot 11 free throws in the first. Griffin picked up two quick fouls and sat out the final 8:46 of the quarter. Warriors guard Andre Iguodala had three fouls in the first quarter and forward David Lee had two.
"All the hype absolutely had an impact on how the game was called. There is no doubt about that. A lot of touch fouls," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Griffin was on the floor at the start of the second quarter, but not for long as he had an offensive foul for his third strike with 11:21 left in the second quarter. He sat the rest of the first half as the teams went into halftime tied at 52. Griffin had a mere four points, two rebounds and zero assists at the intermission.
"It was little bit tough, especially in the first half obviously. In the third quarter I got in some sort of a rhythm," Griffin said. "But I kept putting myself into in a hole, in a bad situation fouling. I can't say whether it affected other guys or not. It affected our team, obviously. But I got to do a better job."
A fresh Griffin started the second half and seemed motivated and fresh from the onset. He scored six quick points on a turnaround jumper, a dunk and two made free throws to give the Clippers a 58-54 lead with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter.
But Griffin, disqualified from four games during the regular season, also picked up two more fouls, the second of those with 57.8 seconds left in the third. Lee yelled out, "Fifth," twice in satisfaction. With Griffin out, the Warriors went into the fourth quarter with an 87-79 lead.
"It was tough. It was huge," Paul said. "Blake is our go-to guy. Contrary to what people may think, we play through B.G. He's tough to guard. When our guy only plays 19 minutes, it's tough. I kept telling 'B' I need you."
After waiting to check in for a lengthy time at the scorer's table, Griffin finally got back in the game with 5:07 remaining with the Clippers down 98-92. He scored on a bank hook shot with 4:13 left to trim the Warriors' lead to 98-94, but that was his last field goal of the game. With the game tied at 105, Griffin picked up his game-ejecting sixth foul with 48.3 seconds left.
"I thought he was going to play well," Rivers said. "It's tough to get your rhythm when you go in and out like that and only play 19 minutes. I'm sure Blake would like to have a couple of those fouls back. You can't waste fouls."
The Clippers went scoreless the rest of the way with Griffin out. He watched in frustration as the Warriors made four free throws to seal the big road playoff victory.
A week ago, this could have been viewed as just one of those nights. But now this is the playoffs and every loss is magnified. The Warriors will go back home to raucous Oakland following Monday's Game 2 with a minimum one win in the best-of-seven series.
Meanwhile, Griffin will have to forget the heated Warriors rivalry for now. Come Monday, his focus is staying away from the whistle.
"After I had time to think about it, I realized that I have to be smarter in that situation knowing I had five that late in the game in that close of a game," Griffin said.
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