OAKLAND, Calif. — No matter how many points the Golden State Warriors won by or lost by throughout the 2018-19 season, their emotions never varied. The experienced group never got too high or too low following any single game, remaining confident that it was still better than everyone else. After four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and back-to-back championships, the Warriors were steadfast in their notion that nothing could stop them and that they could turn on the switch when they needed it most.
That feeling of invincibility was challenged late Monday night, when the Warriors blew a 31-point second-half lead in a 135-131 loss to the LA Clippers on the same night they lost DeMarcus Cousins to a potentially season-ending quad injury.
The locker room was as quiet as it has been after a game all season. Stephen Curry, still in uniform, sat in front of his locker scanning through his phone. Quinn Cook walked out of the shower wrapped in towels just shaking his head as he made his way back to his stall. Warriors general manager Bob Myers walked around with his tie undone, attempting to comfort players and staff members with a warm pat on the back as other Warriors officials shuffled in and out with the same dazed look on their faces.
“The mood’s s—,” Warriors backup center Andrew Bogut said. “And that’s actually a positive sign in my opinion. It wasn’t something where we were like, ‘Oh, we’ll get them next time.’ We’re genuinely pissed off about it.”
To tell the tale of how the Warriors finally got to that state, we turn to the key figures involved in the largest single-game postseason comeback in NBA history:
Warriors take 31-point lead
When Kevin Durant sank a free throw with 7:31 in the third quarter, the Warriors had built their largest lead of the game. At that point, the Clippers had a 0.01 percent win probability, but they had also come back from 28 points down to beat the Celtics on the road earlier this season.
Doc Rivers, Clippers coach: “It’s who we are. We talked about that. Every timeout, it’s just who we are. Be us. We said it: ‘Let’s be us. Don’t change. Keep playing the way we play.'”
Steve Kerr, Warriors coach: “We stopped playing. … As soon as we got up 31, we shut down.”
Curry: “The wheels fell off.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr admits that halfway through the third quarter they fell apart and says that DeMarcus Cousins’ injury is “significant.”
LouWill keeps Clippers afloat
Clippers reserve guard Lou Williams started pouring in points, scoring 17 on 7-for-9 shooting in the third quarter alone as his team started chipping away at the Warriors’ lead. Curry also picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, stifling his rhythm after a strong first half. By the start of the fourth, the Warriors’ lead had shrunk from 31 points to just 14 — and the fans at Oracle Arena became noticeably uneasy.
Kevon Looney, Warriors center: “I think we took our foot off the gas pedal and kind of coasted for a while. It’s a playoff game, and you can’t do that.”
Curry: “I hated my fourth foul, almost eight minutes left in the third quarter. Our whole rotation changes. A lot of little things that end up giving them confidence. That snowball effect.”
Montrezl Harrell, Clippers forward: “We came out [in the] second half, did some defensive things, coverages were different. Overall, coming out of the locker room in the second half, we played a lot harder, was a lot more aggressive. We went downhill and played basically Clippers basketball.”
Patrick Beverley, Clippers guard: “We came in at halftime. We didn’t feel like we were us. We turned the ball over. Steph got loose at the end of that second quarter. But we stayed with it. If you’ve been around this team, and for the people that hasn’t, we’ve been down 28, 25, so we understand how this feels.”
Williams: “For me, I just got lost in the moment, to be honest with you. I was trying to cut the lead down. I know we were down 30 at one point. I just got lost in the moment.”
Curry: “Lou Williams played amazing tonight. He had big shot after big shot. At some point, our collective kind of mindset, energy has to be there to just make it tough on him, get good shots on the offensive end as well.”
Beverley, Durant foul out
At one point in the third quarter, Beverley and Durant — who’d been ejected for their confrontation near the end of Game 1 — were whistled for three consecutive fouls on each other in a span of five seconds. That chippiness carried into the fourth quarter, as the Clippers continued to chip away at the lead. With 4:33 left and the Warriors’ lead down to four, Beverley fouled out. A few minutes later, Durant picked up his sixth foul — four of which came on the offensive end — with the Warriors’ lead down to just two points. Durant finished with 21 points but took only eight shots from the field, his second-fewest attempts in a playoff game in his career. Durant also tallied nine turnovers, his most as a Warrior, and was hounded by Beverley all night. Both Durant and Draymond Green left without speaking to reporters after the game.
Beverley: “I don’t try to get in people’s heads, man. I can’t help if people get irritated by me. It’s not my fault. I go out there and I try to be the best defender on this f—ing planet, consistently, in and out. I take my role, I take my job very seriously. I do it for my teammates. I understand my role. I understand how to get stops. KD is not an easy cover, but it’s fun out there, for sure.”
Rivers: “[Beverley is] so important for us. I think people get lost in some of his antics and stuff. But his spirit and his soul is so important for our team. He was encouraging everybody. I thought him and Lou in particular in the timeouts, when we were down, they kept going to the young guys. You could see that. I thought they was really important for us.”
Williams: “He’s taken that challenge with KD. He’s hit that head-on. They get ejected the first night, KD fouls out the second game. That doesn’t get statted. Doesn’t go on the sheet. That’s who Pat is. We appreciate him for his effort and energy, the grit he plays with. That’s what he brings to the table for this group, allows everybody else to kind of do their jobs smoother.”
After the Clippers 31-point comeback win vs. the Warriors, Patrick Beverley says he can’t help if people are “irritated” by him and talks about defending Kevin Durant.
Shamet caps epic comeback
The Clippers, who’d trailed since the early minutes of the first quarter, tied the game at 128 with 1:10 left, but just 12 seconds later, Curry put the Warriors back on top by three. After the Clippers cut the lead back to one, Klay Thompson missed a shot that would’ve given the Warriors a four-point cushion. Then, with 16.5 seconds left, Clippers guard Landry Shamet drilled a 3-pointer to complete the comeback, giving the Clippers a 133-131 lead. Oracle Arena is almost silent in disbelief.
Landry Shamet stays cool under pressure and hits a 3-pointer to put the Clippers ahead for good.
Rivers: “I loved the end of the game, Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] made a great decision pass, then we made a great shot. … I loved it.”
Shamet: “It felt good when it left my hands.”
Williams: “As soon as he caught it, I put my hands up.”
After a timeout, the Warriors got the ball to Curry, who missed a 3-pointer that would’ve given the lead back to Golden State with under 10 seconds left. Harrell iced the game with a pair of free throws, and the comeback was complete.
Thompson: “We let our guard down. We weren’t the aggressors anymore. We didn’t deserve to win that game. Basketball gods didn’t reward us.”
As stunned as the Warriors were, they remained confident, even as the series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Thursday night.
Curry: “We felt worse in the locker room before in terms of all the different playoff experiences we’ve had. Again, that’s the beauty of the playoffs. No matter what happens from game to game, it resets and you have another opportunity to build momentum between now and Thursday, be real honest about what went wrong in that second half, make adjustments, hold ourselves accountable.”
Thompson: “We’ll bounce back. I’ll bounce back. The whole team will. We’ll right the ship.”