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    Fearless, relentless Clippers reveal cracks in Warriors' armor

    Apr 25, 2019
    PHOTO: AP
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    CHICAGO - Kevin Durant had 45 points. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 46. And the deadly trio sank a combined 13-of-28 from long distance.

    When the Golden State Warriors' main attraction - basketball's version of the Holy Trinity - have this type of offensive production, they normally do not lose.

    Not when they light up the scoreboard for 121 points, which is 3.3 more than their regular season average. And certainly not at their home turf, the Oracle Arena, where 19,596 of their loudest fans came to witness a round one closure while looking forward to another brawl with the Houston Rockets.

    But the Los Angeles Clippers had other ideas and stalled Golden State's anticipated playoffs march with a 129-121 victory in Game 5 of this best-of-7 series.

    Although the Warriors missed 53 field goals, they did more than enough offensively to secure a W. They swished 15 of 39 threes, sank 20 of 22 free throws, and had 31 assists against only eight turnovers.

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    So why are the two-time defending champions still playing on Saturday instead of resting an extra few days before facing the Rockets on Monday to start their Western Conference semifinals?

    Well, we don't need Sherlock Holmes to unravel this mystery. Warriors head coach explained the cause of the Game 5 upset.

    "We just did not defend and the playoffs are all about defense."

    Indeed, the Warriors did not defend. I can even make an argument that they didn't even try. They thought they can just sprinkle star dust on the floor and the Clippers would capitulate.

    No sirs. These are not Donald Sterling's Clippers.

    This a gritty, adversity-tested bunch who were not supposed to be in this postseason, got here anyway, and now they refuse to leave. This a well-coached crew that plays hard under Doc Rivers.

    This is Steve Ballmer's Clippers.

    A No. 8 seed isn't supposed to rally from a 31-point deficit and steal Game 2 on the road against the No. 1 seed. With their playoffs lives at stake, the Clippers, who were 14-point underdogs in Game 5. were not supposed to stave off elimination in the din of a hostile arena.

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    "Tell that to the Marines."

    Although they barely made the playoffs with a 48-34 slate in the Western Conference, the Clippers were fifth overall in points scored per game with 115.1 per and they were ninth in offensive rating at 112.4, according to basketballreference.com.

    THE TEPID WARRIORS obviously ignored the Clippers' capabilities and it hit them flat in the face.

    The Clips shot 54.1 percent from the field in Game 5 (46-of-85). They nailed 15 triples, canned 20 free throws, scored 54 points in the paint, won the rebounding battle, 42-39, and hurt the Warriors with 14 second-chance points.

    The names Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams do not sound as sexy as Curry, Durant and Thompson. Unlike the Warriors trio, who have a combined eight championships and 21 All-Star appearances, Gallinari, Beverley and Williams have yet to raise the Larry O'Brien trophy or be invited to the All-Star Game.

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    But the Clippers trio have 33 years of NBA experience among them and are not intimidated by the Warriors' aura.

    Williams dropped 33 points. Gallinari had 26. Beverly added 17, grabbed 14 rebounds, and created a lot of rankled feelings on the Warriors side.

    And then there was 24-year old Montrezl Harrell, a semi-truck disguised as a power forward, who bullied his way through 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting.

    These Clippers are not pushovers, they are fearless, hard-working gladiators.

    The 6-foot-10 Gallinari is the calming influence, the man in the middle, who can plug holes on defense while giving Warriors bigs fits.

    Williams is the 32-year old sage, a lifeline wise in the ways of scoring and intrepid at crunch time.

    But Beverley is the heartbeat, the 6-foot-1,185-pound irritant that reinforces the team's confidence. He is the edge in their sword. For these Clippers, the letter B isn't just for Beverley, it stands for belief.

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    Indian activist Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a man of peace who espoused civil disobedience as an alternative to violent protests. If he were alive and played pick-up basketball, Patrick Beverley will find a way to invite his scorn and goad Mahatma into a fight.

    Still, the Warriors remain heavily favored to eventually advance. But if they think they can just outgun these Clippers and get away with it, they might be up for another stinger in Game 6 this Saturday at the Staples Center.

    Meanwhile, the Rockets must be quietly pleased, if not happy, watching how things have interestingly unfolded.

    As proven by the Clippers twice in five games, these Warriors are vulnerable.

    A loose crown, a restless throne.

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    PHOTO: AP
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