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The Golden State Warriors once again flexed their offensive muscle, earning a 113-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4 Sunday.
Kevin Durant scored 33 points with six assists, while Klay Thompson added 32 points in the road win at Staples Center. The Warriors improved their lead to 3-1 in the first-round series and have scored at least 110 points in all four games.
Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 25 points for Los Angeles in the disappointing loss.
Although the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference seemingly put pressure on the No. 1 Warriors with a Game 2 victory, two straight home losses now have the Clippers one game away from elimination.
Warriors’ Margin for Error Has Never Been Lower in the Durant Era
Over the past two years, few teams have been able to match up with the Warriors because they simply have too much firepower. Any one of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson could go off and carry the team to victory, while they could also rely upon production from Draymond Green and the other options in the rotation.
However, this series has shown the team isn’t quite as dominant unless everything is clicking.
Game 4 was a classic Klay Thompson outing in which he gets hot and is nearly unstoppable offensively.
NBA TV @NBATV
KLAY IS ON
He dropped 27 PTS and hit 5 triples in the first HALF!
#DubNation | #NBAPlayoffs https://t.co/UVNzc3IgUg
He finished with 32 points, which was a nice change after he averaged just 13.7 points in his first three games of the series while making just four combined three-pointers.
On the other hand, Curry has had a good series (aside from foul trouble) but struggled Sunday.
Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater
A very quick -10 in four minutes without Durant to start this second quarter. Rough day so far for Curry: 0/4 FG, a couple turnovers, foul trouble.
Brad Turner @BA_Turner
Curry has picked up his third foul. He has not been good in Game 4. Can’t score. Can’t defend.
It took him until the end of the third quarter to make his first three after he missed his first seven attempts, and he finished with 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting. The team was minus-two when he was on the floor.
This created a contest that was much closer than it should have been while Thompson and Durant had big games.
It also didn’t help that the bench was outscored 37-18 in Game 4. Depth used to be one of the Warriors’ biggest strengths, but this second unit just doesn’t make the same type of impact as in previous years.
When everything is clicking, Golden State is still likely unbeatable as Durant, Curry, Thompson and Green make as dominant a group as any in the NBA. However, the team can’t afford one or two bad showings against quality opponents like it has in the past.
This type of performance from Curry will likely lead to a loss in later rounds.
Even if the Warriors are still favorites to win it all, they are more vulnerable than they have been in recent years.
Confident Young Clippers Have Exceeded Series Expectations
Few expected any games to be close in this series, so the Clippers have impressed by simply remaining competitive.
Perhaps the most surprising development was that Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari haven’t even been the players to cause the Warriors the most trouble. The veterans helped Los Angeles get to this point, but the young players have made the biggest impact in this series.
Gilgeous-Alexander had a career day in Game 4, finishing with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting. He was the most effective player on the floor at times in the first half, scoring 14 of the team’s 22 first-quarter points:
LA Clippers @LAClippers
.@shaiglalex is unfazed by today’s challenge.
Q1 14 PTS / 5-8 FG https://t.co/QBRt2gVhY2
Jovan Buha @jovanbuha
This feels like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s coming out party on a national stage. This is his best offensive quarter of the season.
He kept it going in the second half with aggressive play against much more established competition to help the Clippers stay competitive.
LA Clippers @LAClippers
Made ya look.
@shaiglalex | #ClipperNation https://t.co/YwDRWoLdxT
Meanwhile, fellow rookie Landry Shamet finished with nine points, including some big-time three-pointers in the third quarter to give Los Angeles a lead. He was also plus-four in 28 minutes despite the eight-point loss.
Shamet already had the biggest shot of the series for the Clippers with the go-ahead three late in Game 2. He showed this wasn’t a fluke and that he can be relied upon in more big situations.
Even Jerome Robinson, another first-round pick from the 2018 draft, made an impact off the bench early in the game:
Brad Turner @BA_Turner
Rookie Jerome Robinson is making his presence felt with seven points off the bench.
Other rookies around the league might have more upside, but there is no substitute for this type of playoff experience against an elite opponent. In the biggest tests of their careers, they showed they have enough mental toughness to match up with anyone in the league.
With Gallinari, Williams and Montrezl Harrell all set to return next season and enough room to add some quality free agents, the Clippers aren’t too far away from becoming title contenders.
Although the players and fans are still focused on what will happen the rest of the series, even the losses have indicated the future is bright for Los Angeles.
The series could now come down to Game 5, which will take place Wednesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland.