OAKLAND, Calif. — The early run had been withstood, the 11-point hole erased, and instead of gasping for air to keep pace with the super-charged Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers instead were gaining steam.
Freed by screens above the three-point line, Lou Williams dribbled untouched for layups and floaters. Montrezl Harrell, his running mate from the bench, was everywhere in the process of scoring 22 first-half points.
The Clippers — the 100-1 underdogs — were showing their resilience was not limited to the regular season.
And then, as it happens so often against Golden State, the Warriors dismissed any potential of a Game 1 postseason upset in mere minutes. Technically, 3 minutes and 21 seconds.
The Western Conference’s top seed turned a 51-all tie with that much to play in the second quarter at Oracle Arena into a 13-point halftime lead. Twenty-four minutes were left to be played, but the game was never again so close or contested in what became a 121-104 Warriors victory.
“The end of that half, that swing was huge,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
For the Clippers, Harrell (26 points) and Williams (25) were brilliant. They became the only bench duo since bench statistics were first recorded in 1970-71 to each score 25-plus points in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
If postseason openers can be considered tone-setters for what is to come, then consider its game-changing run before halftime a reminder that Golden State — coming off its worst regular-season record since it began its dynastic run four seasons ago — is still loaded with talent it can activate at the flip of a switch.
Star guard Stephen Curry went from a facilitator early — his first shot attempt came halfway through the quarter — into a white-hot scorer. He finished with 38 points on 15 shots to go with a game-high 15 rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Durant added 23 points.