HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — We knew the Golden State Warriors were going to get back into the game Thursday night. It was just a matter of whether or not the Los Angeles Clippers, a pretty good team in their own right, could hold on after leading by as many as 23 points in the second quarter.
But Luke Walton went to his trump card a little earlier than usual and the Clippers were toast.
The trump card is a lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. With five shooters on the floor, the Warriors spread you out and slice you up offensively. And they use their length and quickness to switch everything and not give up much on the other end of the floor.
The Warriors typically don’t use the super-small lineup early in games. Of the 48 minutes its played this season, only 16 have come before the fourth quarter. It’s kind of like Mariano Rivera, if Mariano Rivera was not only a lights-out closer, but also a .750 hitter who gets to bat in every spot of the order.
With 5:41 left to go in Thursday’s game, Barnes checked in for Festus Ezeli and the lineup was in place. The Clippers were still up by 10 points at that point.
But on the super-small lineup’s first possession, Curry hit a three. Paul Pierce answered, but the Clippers couldn’t keep up with the Warriors when they proceeded to make six of their next seven shots, with five of the six coming from 3-point range.
- NBA.com/stats Video: Watch the Warriors shoot 7-for-8 down the stretch to beat the Clippers
The super-small lineup outscored the Clippers 25-8 in that final 5:41 to keep the Warriors unbeaten and the Clippers on the wrong side of a one-sided rivalry.
Here’s the boxscore from the final 5:41. The Warriors shot 2-for-2 on twos, 5-for-6 on threes, and 6-for-6 on free throws. They recorded assists on all seven of their buckets.
That’s ridiculous, but it’s not too far off from the norm. That lineup has played 48 total minutes this season and has outscored its opponents 164-104 in those 48 minutes, shooting 23-for-38 (61 percent) from 3-point range, with assists on 73 percent of its field goals.
The Warriors are the best team in the league, by far. And the lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Green is the best the Warriors have to offer.
Walton is going to the lineup more often than Steve Kerr did. It only played 102 minutes in 37 games in the regular season last year. But Kerr did go to it a lot more frequently in the playoffs, when it logged 111 minutes over 16 of the Warriors’ 21 postseason games.
The lineup has been ridiculously successful no matter who the coach has been. It’s the Warriors’ trump card and it’s near impossible to stop.