OAKLAND — Bending over at the waist while Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harris shot a pair of game-sealing free throws, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry shook his head in disbelief after missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer with six seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
After leading by as many as 31 points in Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against the Clippers, the Warriors had squandered their advantage, allowing the Clippers roar back and hand Golden State a 135-131 loss at Oracle Arena — the worst playoff collapse in NBA history — and evening the series at one win apiece.
“Well we stopped playing,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “We disconnected … We kind of messed with the game a little bit and when you do that, you’re in some trouble, especially in the playoffs.”
Through the first two-and-a-half quarters, Golden State had played up to its full potential, despite losing starting center DeMarcus Cousins to a left quadricep injury. Cousins had fallen while going after a loose ball just four minutes into the first quarter.
Even with Cousins ruled out for the remainder of the game, the Warriors were able to build themselves a 23-point advantage by halftime.
This was thanks, in part, to the Golden State having the hot hand early on, shooting the ball at a 59% clip, including 46% from beyond the arc. Curry scored 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor, and proclaimed himself as a “bad boy” after knocking down a left corner three with 2:03 left in the second quarter.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, Curry wouldn’t be able to carry that momentum into the second half as he was called for his third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter.
“I’ve just got to be smarter,” Curry said. “Not to put myself in a situation where a band-bang call or a judgment call from the ref changes everything for us. That’s on me.”
Without Curry on the floor, the Warriors allowed the Clippers to crawl back into the game with a 44-35 third period.
After a Game 1 that saw Los Angeles bench players Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell combine for 51 points, the pair were back at it again, but this time reeling their team back into the game with haste.
Behind 34 points through three quarters from the two, including 17 from Williams in the third, the Clippers brought themselves within 14 points.
“We let our guard down,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “We weren’t the aggressors anymore. We didn’t deserve to win. The basketball gods didn’t reward us.”
As the Warriors struggled to regain their footing, the Clippers did not let up with their offensive attack.
Harrell and Williams poured in 27 more points in the fourth as Los Angeles brought themselves within just two points with 1:33 to play. Then came Williams’ biggest shot of the game.
With 1:10 to play, Williams faded to the left of the key with Thompson and Warriors forward Kevon Looney draped over him.
Thompson’s arms flailed in a desperate attempt to alter the shot, Williams watched his 21-foot fall-back jumper drop through the rim, silencing the Oracle crowd. Twelve seconds later, though, Curry answered with a monster shot of his own: a 3-pointer from the left wing that sent Oracle in a frenzy.
Williams cut the Warriors lead down to just one point with another fadeaway jump shot, which gave the Warriors the ball with 46 seconds and a shot to potentially seal the game with a 3-pointer from Thompson.
His shot from the top of the arc would bounce off of the front of the rim, allowing Los Angeles to have a shot to win the game.
“I had a wide open look at the top of the key,” Thompson said. “In and out. It happens.”
“Steph hit a big shot, they came and answered, and Klay had a great, great look he’ll make nine out of 10, and missed it, and they made a big shot,” said guard Quinn Cook. “They deserved to win tonight.”
With a chance to snag a game on the road, Los Angeles went to rookie guard Landry Shamet, who curled off of a screen to get open on the right wing.
As he rocked home the 28-footer, Los Angeles found itself up by two points, with just 15.9 seconds remaining.
Curry attempted what would have been a game-winning 3-pointer on the ensuing Warriors possession but found no success.
Instead the Warriors walked off of the court angry and bitter after allowing the largest comeback in any playoff game in NBA history.
“It’s a tough feeling,” Curry said after the game. “We’re talking to each other, trying to figure it out, again, how we’re going to move on and use this as fuel for Game 3. But other than that, it’s just the playoffs, man. Everything is heightened. You really got to lock in on the fine details of what separates a winning team and a losing team in the playoffs. We kind of lost sight of that down the stretch.”