The Golden State Warriors remarkably lost at home for the second time in their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, to fall back to a 3-2 lead after five games.
And it was another game of scintillating excitement.
The showdown in this 1-seed vs. 8-seed contest has generally either resembled complete blowouts for the defending champion Warriors, or exhilarating displays of pluck and resiliency from the Clippers, who refused to lay down when all looked lost.
Spurred by 33 points from bench magician Lou Williams, Doc Rivers’ visitors withstood a late rally from the home side and closed things out seamlessly over the final minutes to prevail 129-121.
Golden State still has the upper hand, but this series has boiled and bubbled into an outstanding piece of theater, and it is not over yet.
Game 6: Friday (4/26), 10pm/et, ESPN pic.twitter.com/duRFtmGD56
— NBA (@NBA) April 25, 2019
The oddsmakers, critics, pundits and experts — and almost certainly Steve Kerr’s players themselves — thought it would be. The shrewd sportsbooks of Las Vegas priced the Clippers as high as 100-1 to win out over seven games, some of the highest odds in NBA playoff history.
Of all the series in the first round to be extended late into this week, few would have predicted this one. Yes, the Clippers bounced back from a 31-point deficit in an incredible Game 2, but that seemed to be a blip when Kevin Durant lit up and pushed the Warriors two games ahead.
The Clippers thought differently and were inspired on Wednesday night in a game that burst into an early shootout. It was 41-37 to the hosts after the first quarter, but by the break the Clippers had moved ahead and preserved their advantage for most of the second half. A Durant 3 put the Warriors up 118-117 with 3:20 to go, yet from then on Los Angeles was nearly flawless.
“It is a little mix of arrogance and just hard work,” Williams told TNT. “We have a lot of young guys, veterans, guys who want to prove their name. People say we are not a good team. We take all that, we digest it and we wanted to make this a good series. We understand that to give ourselves an opportunity to beat those guys we have to outwork them for 48 minutes.”
By any reasonable standard, the superstar-free Clippers shouldn’t be able to do it again, and certainly not twice. But not everything is as it seems in these playoffs, especially not when it comes to an upstart team that is taking it to the champs and doesn’t know when to quit.