Golden State was looking ahead to facing Houston. At least, Klay Thompson acknowledged that was the case.
Kevin Durant said he wasn’t sure about that.
And Stephen Curry flatly dismissed the notion.
The Warriors weren’t in sync for Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers — and still weren’t in sync afterward when asked if their minds drifted ahead to what would be a second-round date with Houston in a rematch of last season’s West finals. And perhaps to the surprise of many, the Warriors-Clippers series is still chugging along.
The Clippers will play host to Game 6 on Friday night, looking to knot the series at 3-3 and send it back to Oracle Arena for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday. They staved off elimination with a 129-121 win on the Warriors’ home floor in Game 5 on Wednesday.
“We’re looking forward to going home,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “My guess is that probably not a lot of tickets sold because I don’t think a lot of people thought Game 6 would happen. I think our guys did.”
Those tickets were flying Thursday.
This is the first time in Steve Kerr’s five seasons as Warriors coach that his team — winner of three of the last four NBA titles — has been pushed past five games in the opening round. The Warriors had won 31 consecutive games at home when scoring 121 or more points in regulation; they’re 0-2 in this series when that’s the case.
“The Clippers are a hell of a team,” Kerr said. “They won 48 games. The West is amazingly deep this year. … So they have our respect, for sure. They outplayed us (in Game 5) and they’ve got a hell of a team. So we’ve got to bring it if we’re going to beat them.”
When Kerr says “bring it,” he’s talking about the defensive side.
The Warriors lost Game 5 at home despite Durant scoring 45 points, and Thompson and Curry combining for 46 more. They made 15 3s; they hadn’t done that in a home loss in more than a year. But they allowed Clippers star reserves Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to score a combined 57 points on 23 for 33 shooting, let Danilo Gallinari get on track with 26 points and somehow gave up 14 rebounds to 6-foot-1 Clippers guard Patrick Beverley.
The Clippers are a No. 8 seed, facing a two-time defending champion, in a series that they entered as massive underdogs.
There’s no pressure on them, and that clearly seems to help their cause.
“We didn’t want our season to be over because we know how hard we worked and how much time and effort everybody in the whole coaching staff and the whole organization has put into our season,” Harrell said. “It’s about coming out here playing our style of basketball and extending the series.”
Houston is waiting; if the Warriors win Friday, Game 1 of the Rockets-Golden State series is Sunday.
Regardless of whether they were in Game 5 or not, the Warriors say they won’t look past the Clippers in Game 6.
“They’ve been tough,” Thompson said. “But now it’s time to do what we do.”
WARRIORS AT CLIPPERS
Warriors lead 3-2. Game 6, 10 p.m. EDT, ESPN
NEED TO KNOW: This is the first time that a 1-versus-8 series in the West has extended past five games since 2014, when San Antonio was pushed to Game 7 by Dallas. The Spurs went on to win the NBA title. … The Clippers lost Games 3 and 4 of this series in Los Angeles. They have never gone 0-3 at home in a playoff matchup; they were 1-3 against Utah in 2017.
INJURY WATCH: Andrew Bogut is a fine rim protector, but the Warriors clearly miss DeMarcus Cousins. Since Cousins got hurt, the Clippers are averaging 48 points per game inside the paint.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Curry. He’s due for a big game at Staples Center. In five appearances there this season, Curry is shooting 26 for 70 (.371) from the field, 11 for 45 (.244) from 3-point range.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Warriors, without question. Houston is sitting home, resting and waiting for a matchup that there’s no question the Rockets have clamored for all season after letting last season’s West finals and a 3-2 lead slip away.