Warriors wake up late to beat Clippers, take 18-2 record into showdown at Phoenix

LOS ANGELES — Whether it was a matchup of the league’s top defensive teams living up to the billing or two teams that took too long to wake up for a Sunday matinee is in the eye of the beholder.

To Jordan Poole, it was merely an opportunity. His flurry of points at the end of the third quarter awakened the Warriors and propelled them to their best-in-the-NBA 18th win in 20 games, 105-90, over the Los Angeles Clippers. At 18-2, Golden State takes the NBA’s best record and a seven-game winning streak into its home-and-home showdown with Phoenix, which has won 16 straight and sits a game behind the Warriors in the Western Conference.

“It was a chippy game, very physical,” coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “The Clippers have a great defense. They play really hard. They make it difficult on you. We obviously have a great defensive team, too, so it was a very physical game. There was some frustration, as there often is in a physical game.”

A free throw off a technical foul kicked off a stretch of 12 points in the final 2:35 of the third quarter for third-year guard, which extended the Warriors’ lead from one point to seven entering the final quarter. Poole traded buckets with Clippers star Paul George and scored all but five of his 17 points during his flurry.

He left it to Steph Curry to ice the win.

Enraged by a non-call on a drive to the basket midway through the fourth quarter, Curry drew a technical foul that only fired him up further. He gestured at the referee, removed his mouthpiece, stomped in fury. Then he channeled that energy.

Curry drained three 3s in a span of 75 seconds after he got teed up, while the Warriors mounted a 21-7 run in the following 4:27 to seal the game. He finished with a game-high 33 points and stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds, six assists and six steals.

Otto Porter Jr. added a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, his best statistical showing of the season.

The Warriors outscored the Clippers 45-31 over the final 14:35 of the game, starting with Poole’s first bucket at the 2:35 mark of the third quarter.

Prior to Poole’s eruption, a lifeless Warriors offense looked to be heading to its first game under 100 points this season, and possibly Golden State’s third loss. Both possibilities had been eliminated by the time the game clock ticked down inside of 2 minutes.

“All I really needed was a free throw to get going,” Poole said.

For Curry, all it took was the feeling of being wronged, followed by the sound of the official’s whistle against him.

The Warriors had built a 79-70 lead with just over 9 minutes to go when Curry attempted to finish at the rim in transition and drew hard contact from Reggie Jackson. Curry fell to the floor while the ball trickled out of bounds. There was no foul. Curry was irate.

“All that led into where I felt I got fouled, so I let my emotions go,” Curry said. “It definitely fired me up, fired our team up. You’ve got to just be able to direct that energy into putting the ball in the basket after that.”

Bang, bang, bang.

Less than 5 minutes later, the Warriors held a 98-77 advantage, and Curry was able to cool his head from the bench for the game’s final minutes.

On a cold shooting afternoon against the top defense that isn’t their own, the Warriors’ stayed within striking distance by keeping George and the Clippers in check. George scored 30 points, but it wasn’t enough when the Warriors swiped the ball 19 times and held the Clippers to 40% shooting from the field.

After making more than half their shots the past two games in their two best shooting performances of the season, the Warriors struggled to reach a 40% success rate Sunday against the Clippers.

On Sunday, Golden State’s defense bailed it out when the shots weren’t falling.

The Warriors were held to 105 points, near a season-low, while shooting 44.2% from the field (and only 12-of-22 from the foul line). But they forced 25 turnovers, including 19 steals, to erase a first-half deficit and build their lead in the second half.

Nobody was more of a menace than Curry, who finished with six steals, including a couple of swipes that led to some of his six assists and game-high 33 points.

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