By Matthew Harrington
Coach Mark Jackson accused his Golden State Warriors of playing down to their opponents amidst a stretch that has seen the Warriors drop six of their last nine, a cold streak that reached its lowest point with a Tuesday night 88-85 loss at home to the lowly Washington Wizards. His team played to the level of its opponent against Thursday night. Luckily for Jackson, the team on the opponents’ bench happened to be one of the best of the West. The Warriors (28-19) rebounded from Tuesday’s embarrassment in a big way, thumping the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers 111-92 at Oracle Arena in a game where the outcome practically never came under doubt.
The Dubs big men manhandled their Southern California foes, with David Lee and Andrew Bogut combining for 36 points and 28 rebounds for their second-straight win over in-state rivals Los Angeles (33-16). The Warriors also downed the Clippers on Christmas day in a more physical 105-103 win and lead the season series 2-1.
Lee, making a statement after being overlooked for a reserve role on the Western Conference All-Star squad after spots were announced Thursday, tied Stephen Curry for a Warriors-best 22 points on the night and chipped in 11 boards for the double-double. Bogut connected on seven of eleven field goal attempts for 14 points, including a nifty desperation chuck with the shot clock expiring that drew a smile from the Aussie center, and pulled down 17 rebounds. His 17 boards were second only to Clippers center DeAndre Jordan who reeled 20 down off the rim. All-world talent Blake Griffin ended the contest with 27 points for Los Angeles to lead all scorers. Guard Darren Collison netted 22 starting in place of All-Star Chris Paul, out with a shoulder injury since January 3rd but expected to return as early as next week.
The Warriors raced out to an early 17-6 lead just under halfway through the first quarter then held the 11-point edge leading 32-21 to close the quarter. The home team continued to add to the lead in the second before the Clippers put together their best run off the night in the final five minutes of the half. Trailing Golden State 56-40, L.A. closed out the period outscoring the Warriors 16-8 to trail 64-56. The Clippers comeback ended prematurely with the Warriors smothering their visitors 26-11 then closed out the game despite being outscored 25-21 in the fourth quarter for the 111-92 final margin.
The win came at a desperate time for the Warriors, who were in danger of dropping back six games in the standings to the Clippers. The Dubs stand four games back in third place in the division after being leapfrogged by the red-hot Phoenix Suns, winners of four-straight and seven of their last ten. The Warriors have a prime opportunity to string together consecutive wins for the first time since their historic ten-game win-streak was snapped earlier in the month when they face the Utah Jazz, who boast the second-least wins in the Western Conference (16) Friday night in the second half of back-to-back games. For coach Jackson, the hope is that the Warriors can right a spin that has seen the Dubs go 4-6 over their last ten while playing above the level of their opponents, the Northeast Division’s last place Jazz.