Raise your hand if you expected this series to be over by now. Sure, the Clippers are fun and feisty and Lou Williams is a delight forever, but their opponent is Golden State, destroyers of world and shuckers of corn. And yet, whether out of boredom or exhaustion or just annoyance, the Warriors haven’t quite looked like the Warriors yet. They certainly didn’t on Wednesday, when they let Los Angeles to claw its way to a 129-121 victory that sends the series back to SoCal for at least one more game.
The Clippers’ surge towards the Game 5 victory was powered by Williams (more on him in a sec), but it was really kicked off by Montrezl Harrell calmly rolling up Kevin Looney and kicking him down the sidewalk:
Before that block, Los Angeles seemed to be on the same low trajectory of every Golden State opponent of the last five seasons: spunky and motivated, but ultimately not strong enough to fend off The Run that comes in every important Warriors game. If the Clippers had crumbled after hanging around for 43 minutes, it would have been a damn shame, but an understandable one. Instead, it seems like something flipped with Harrell’s block.
Beyond the immediate effect of, you know, not allowing the Warriors two points, the play seemed to re-energize the Clips. They still gave up seven of the next 10 points, because the Warriors are the Warriors, but they hung around long enough to hand the game over to Lou Williams and get the fuck out of the way. In the minute-plus spanning from 2:32 left in the game until 1:30 remaining, Williams scored eight straight points, effectively ending the game over the course of three straight offensive possessions.
The most important of those was the first: after Kevin Durant slammed home a dunk to give the Warriors a 118-117 lead, and with Golden State’s delicate fanbase finally rocking and rolling, it sure felt like the end. But Williams, the absolute madman that he is, went straight at Durant and nailed a three in his face, drawing the foul to boot. A one-point Warriors lead had turned into a three-point Clippers advantage, and that margin would only get bigger before the end of the game.
After a Patrick Beverley steal on the next Warriors possession, Williams again took the rock and drove straight into the Golden State defense, banking in a gentle floater. With two minutes left, the Clippers were up five, and it sure began to seem like it was all happening:
Here’s a good time to point out that Golden State’s offense devolved into complete ass under pressure. After initial sets were ably shut off by the Clippers, the greatest collection of offensive talent in NBA history seemingly had no ideas except “isolate Durant late in the shot clock.” I’ll leave it to others to parse what that might mean for the Warriors going forward, but when Durant missed a three-pointer after one of those same isolations at around 1:47 left, it was tempting to call game for the Clips.
Instead, Williams took that task on himself. He saved his sweetest-looking shot for last: a gentle fadeaway jumper over Andre Iguodala with 90 seconds remaining.
And so, after 62 seconds of game time that featured two Golden State turnovers and a Los Angeles four-point play, the Clippers won Game 5 and set themselves up nicely to keep annoying the shit out of the defending champions in a home-court Game 6 on Friday night. While the Rockets took care of business and closed out Utah, finally, in five games earlier on Wednesday, Golden State’s creaky, grouchy core must now drag itself out of bed for another first-round game in a city that’s not their own. Lou Williams had enough smoke to send the tech bros back across the Bay in resigned indifference, and now the Warriors have to deal with it.