OAKLAND – Helpless and clueless against Blake Griffin's scoring and frightened by DeAndre Jordan's prodigious defensive presence, the Warriors now teeter on the brink of despair.
The homecourt advantage earned with their Game 1 victory last Saturday in Los Angeles is gone after a 98-96 loss to the Clippers in Game 3 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors now are down 2-1 in this first round, best-of-seven series. The pessimist would say they're done. The optimist would believe they could win three of four and advance. The realist would say they're in trouble.
"We were not playing well," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "We turned the basketball over too much. We just got out of character."
These sound suspiciously like the observations Jackson made after his team's 138-98 loss in Game 2. Though the comments are accurate, repeating them has to sting the Warriors a little more because this loss came before their adoring fans.
This series is beginning to look as any reasonably knowledgeable observer might have predicted after Warriors center Andrew Bogut sustained a fractured rib in the final week of the season. The Clippers have a decisive advantage – with power forward Griffin and center Jordan representing the decisive in the advantage.
Griffin had 32 points on 15-of-25 shooting, and was particularly effective against Warriors power forward David Lee. No other Clipper scored more than 15 points (Chris Paul) and none needed to.
"We forced him to be a jump shooter, and he's making jump shots," Jackson said.
Griffin put the Clippers in control in the third quarter, scoring 10 points in the first three minutes on 5-of-6 shooting. His teammates soon joined in and the Clippers had a substantial 68-50 lead halfway through the quarter.
"He's been just great," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Griffin. "The bank shot that he's added to his game, facing the basket has just taken him to different level because it's very difficult now to guard him. If you get up on him, he goes around you. If you back off of him, he can use the glass."
The glass is Jordan's province. He grabbed 22 rebounds to go along with 14 points, five blocks and countless shots altered because the Warriors knew he was nearby.
Jordan was particularly tough on Lee, who clearly was intimidated, missing no fewer than five layups or put-backs he normally makes.
"He played really well," said Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who finished with a team-high 26 points. "You've got to give him credit. Just rebounding, finishing, made free throws . . . so you’ve got to give him credit."
Though Jackson conceded that Jordan's impact was huge, the coach also made it apparent that he'd like more savvy attacking of a big man eager to block shots.
"Klay did a great job of attacking his body and finishing," he said. "Other than that, we're doing a bad job of forcing him to make plays. If you allow him to be an athlete, he's going to disrupt it. We've got to go to his body and eliminate his athletic ability."
Yet Jordan alone was not responsible for the Warriors having a tough time scoring. Paul is a very good defender, too, and he's clearly taking personally his faceoff with Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Paul is throwing Curry off his game.
Curry finished with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Through three games, he has scored 54 points, 20 of which came in the third quarter of the Game 2 blowout.
"They're a little more aggressive than in the regular season," Curry said. "But our offense is not the issue right now. We're getting great looks. We're getting solid possessions. But the turnovers and the defensive lulls that we have, especially tonight in the third quarter, we don't have an answer."
The Warriors are getting good looks. Open looks. But sometimes they're made uncomfortable by Jordan's presence and other times they simply can't hit the shot.
The Warriors are underdogs for a reason. We're seeing it. They're not playing well as it is, and Griffin and Jordan only make them look worse.
THE GOOD: Draymond Green's furious second half, which yielded 11 points, six rebounds and three steals in 20 minutes.
Thompson made a nice second-half recovery, scoring 19 points in 24 minutes – but only made one of the seven 3-pointers he fired up.
Curry managed to ring up a playoff career-high 15 assists.
THE BAD: The Warriors lost a first-round playoff game at home for the first time since May 4, 1994. They had a six-game win streak in such games.
The Warriors committed 17 turnovers and now are averaging a preposterous 22 per game in the series.
The Warriors shot 6-of-31 from 3-point distance, 19.4 percent.
Did we mention the Warriors have not found answers for Jordan and Griffin?
THE TAKE: The Warriors' best chance, perhaps only chance, of winning this series is if Curry and Thompson torch the opposing guards. Not one. Both. It's not happening.
Anything short of that allows Jordan and Griffin to control the game. They are. The Warriors occasionally double-teamed Griffin. They need to do more of it.
They also need Lee to be smart and assertive inside. Jordan has destroyed that.
This series is not over, not yet, but it certainly has a conclusive feel to it.