OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson sat on the scorer’s table at Oracle Arena on Wednesday morning. He gazed around the building and tried to envision what it will look and sound like when the Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Thursday night.
A gold-shirt wearing sellout crowd of 19,596. Roars so loud that, at times, they drown out whistles. The sights and sounds all embodying the spirit of the team’s postseason motto: “Loud. Proud. Warriors.”
“It’s going to be a great environment,” Jackson said. “But with that being said, they won’t get a stop, they won’t get a score, they won’t make a free throw. We’ve got to do our part.”
The Warriors will indeed need to regain more than their homecourt prowess if they want to pull off another upset in the first round of the playoffs.
They need to rediscover their game.
Blake Griffin and the Clippers crushed Golden State 138-98 in Los Angeles on Monday night to even the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. The third-seeded Clippers showed just why most had picked them to beat the sixth-seeded Warriors, coming back from a foul-filled opener with an all-around game that would’ve worked in any venue.
In Game 1, Griffin had 16 points and three rebounds in 19 minutes before he fouled out. The All-Star forward regrouped to score a career playoff-high 35 points in Game 2. He shot 13 of 17 from the floor, made 9 of 10 free throws and grabbed six rebounds — doing it all in just 30 minutes.
The Clippers forced 26 turnovers, shutdown streaky shooting Stephen Curry most of the game and took advantage of the absence of Warriors center Andrew Bogut — who is out indefinitely with a fractured right rib.
“We realized that if we played our game and do the things that we worked on we’d be successful,” Griffin said. “We play well when we’re just playing free, so we’re just going to try and achieve that.”
Whether the Clippers can duplicate that performance on the road is another matter.
For all the success Los Angeles has had in recent seasons, the twice-reigning Pacific Division champions have struggled at Oracle Arena. The Clippers have lost 15 of their last 17 games in Oakland, including the last five meetings. And they have never played at Golden State in the playoffs, when the crowd often reaches even higher decibels.
“It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be exciting. I think every basketball player loves playing in an environment like that,” Griffin said. “We’ve played in places that are pretty loud before, especially in the playoffs. I’ve heard good things about the crowd and we’re looking forward to it. Absolutely.”
Of course, home court has not always been an advantage for the Warriors this season.
Chris Paul was limited to practice Wednesday morning with a sore hamstring but is expected to play Thursday.
The Warriors went 27-14 at home, including 2-0 against the Clippers, but they had several head-scratching setbacks in Oakland. That included home losses to lesser teams such as Denver (twice), Cleveland, Minnesota, New York, Washington and Charlotte.
Golden State has taken advantage of its home court its last two trips to the playoffs. The Warriors are a combined 6-0 at Oracle Arena in the first round in 2007 against Dallas and last season against Denver.
“Hearing the roar of the crowd making a big play, it gets you hyped, it gets you feeling good,” Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson said. “It definitely won’t hurt being home.”
Game 4 and Game 6, if necessary, also will be in Oakland — where the Warriors promise to make things tougher for the Clippers than they ever did in Game 2.
“We’re not going to quit. We’re not going to just lie down and allow a team to do what they want against us,” Curry said. “We’re going to be physical, come back and it’s about that competitive fire for Game 3 that we’re going to need to get it done to protect our home court.”