The Golden State Warriors’ title defense hit a remarkable roadblock on Monday night as they blew a 31-point lead to lose 135-131 to the Los Angeles Clippers at Oracle Arena.
Seemingly cruising to a 2-0 series lead in their first round, 1 vs. 8 matchup, the Warriors completely imploded in the face of a masterful and resilient challenge from the superstar-free Clippers.
Golden State led 94-63 with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter and had already started to rest key players to spare their legs, when Lou Williams sparked an extraordinary fightback from the visitors. It gave Steve Kerr’s men an unwanted slice of history, with the previous record playoff revival being the Los Angeles Lakers’ resurgence from 29 points down to the Seattle Supersonics in 1989.
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“(We) just don’t give in,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They were beating us in every facet and we kept searching and kept searching and found (a combination) we liked. I thought it was our spirit more than anything.”
Williams, the highest scorer off the bench in NBA history, dropped 36 as Los Angeles kept plugging away at the Warriors’ lead as the hosts tensed up during the final quarter.
Landry Shamet, a rookie guard acquired as part of the Tobias Harris-to-Philadelphia trade earlier in the season, knocked down a nerveless three-pointer with 16.5 seconds remaining to go to put his team ahead.
Stephen Curry was unable to connect from downtown as the Warriors tried to rescue what had turned into a miserable night, compounded by a quad injury that ruled DeMarcus Cousins out for the night and left him facing an MRI on Tuesday.
The series had gotten feisty in the opening game when Kevin Durant and Patrick Beverley both got ejected for double technical but that appeared to be a mere sideshow in a one-sided clash — with the Warriors such heavy favorites that the Las Vegas bookies listed the Clippers at 100:1 before the playoffs began.
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However, on this wild and unpredictable night things suddenly got real and the defending champions now have a real fight on their hands — against a team that found its confidence, and found itself.
“We have to keep fighting,” Rivers added. “It is who we are. Let’s be us. Don’t change. Keep playing the way we play.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Martin Roger on Twitter @RogersJourno.