The refs were unfortunately the story in this game, blowing their whistles for 52 total fouls and making sure Blake Griffin and Andre Iguodala didn't have a say in the conclusion. The last minute of game play dragged on for about 15 real-time minutes because of instant replay, and what was a high-caliber offensive matchup turned into a boring slog instead of an instant classic.
Chris Paul was brilliant until the end of the game when he missed two crucial free throws and committed a bad turnover, essentially gift-wrapping the Warriors a win since neither team could make their free throws. Paul finished with 28 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
The game started started sluggishly with heaps of turnovers and ugly play, but the Clippers had a big early advantage, going up 12-1. Then Griffin picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of play, which gave the Warriors immediate life. They came back to tie it up just a few minutes later, and when Doc Rivers inserted Griffin back into the lineup to stem the bleeding, he picked up his third foul almost immediately. He played just 3:53 in the first half.
The Warriors weren't spared from the foul trouble -- there were 29 fouls called in the half -- with Iguodala getting called for four (four) fouls and David Lee and Marreese Speights each whistled for three. That led to Hilton Armstrong playing some minutes and showing why he was out of the league a few months ago.
In the third quarter, stuff got real. There was a stretch from 8:11 left to 5:01 left where neither team missed a shot in 11 attempts as the score jumped from 61-61 to 73-73. The teams continued to trade baskets on both the inside and outside, as David Lee got going and Griffin finally found the rhythm of the game.
As the quarter wound down -- and Griffin picked up his fifth foul on a nonsense call -- the Warriors began pulling away. The Dubs made 14 of 20 shots in the quarter and led by eight points entering the final period, despite Andre Iguodala being largely planted on the bench with five fouls.
(A quick aside about the refs: they were terrible in this game. If you didn't watch, think of as bad officiating consistently in a game you can remember [non-Donaghy edition], and this was worse. Griffin fouled out on a bogus call. Iguodala fouled out and had three fouls that should have been non-calls. The terrible calls were balanced between the teams, but that doesn't make it excusable. It's the playoffs, and the refs shouldn't be the dominant storyline in any game.)
The gap remained throughout the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the Warriors' ball movement and ability to finish at the rim without Griffin and DeAndre Jordan patrolling the paint dictating the pace of the game. With about six minutes left in the game, though, Paul took over.
Paul hit two threes down the stretch, played lock-down defense on Stephen Curry for spells and took control of the game. He was as brilliant as you expect one of the five best players in the league to be, until he went to the line down three points with 11 seconds left and missed both. It was a rare lapse in, for lack of a better word, clutchness for Paul, and you can be sure he'll come back with a vengeance in Game 2.
No one had a dominant performance for the Warriors and they won as a team. Five guys scored between 13 and 21 points for the Warriors. Curry shot just 6-16 from the field for 14 points, but, like always, he drew a ton of perimeter attention and opened up lanes for his teammates. Lee, despite early foul trouble, was the Warriors' MVP in the game, scoring 20 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and playing solid defense on Griffin (when Blake was in the game).
Game 2 of this series is late Monday night, and the same referees will be calling it. Expect them to receive a stern talking-to from Commissioner Silver (no pun intended).