LOS ANGELES -- On Friday night, Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson described the fate that has befallen the Los Angeles Clippers as "one of the toughest blows" an NBA team can take: the loss of a pre-eminent superstar, in this case forward Elton Brand, who is expected to miss several months with a ruptured left Achilles tendon.
You can imagine how much of a blow it is, then, when your own superstar plays all but 2½ minutes against such a crippled opponent, yet you come away with a nothing but the gritty tang of defeat in the back of your throat.
Despite 22 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in 45 minutes and 39 seconds from Warriors leader Baron Davis, plus a career-high 33 points and eight boards from Kelenna Azubuike, Golden State (0-2) couldn't wrangle its first win of the season, falling, 120-114, to the shorthanded Clippers at the Staples Center.
Los Angeles center Chris Kaman returned from getting three stitches above his left eye to complete a 26-point, 18-rebound performance. And Cuttino Mobley scored the last four of his 21 points in the final 1:16 to cement the win after Golden State had gotten to within one point at 113-112.
The Warriors' plan -- ride Davis until he dropped -- came as no surprise. Nelson said he'd do as much until Warrior swingman Stephen Jackson returns from a seven-game suspension on Nov. 18.
"That's what I'm here for," Davis said of the increased workload.
"I'm not gonna complain. I'm just going to play. Whatever Coach asks me to do out there, I'm going to do."
Nelson was asking Davis to conjure up a win, knowing that this is one of only two occasions in their next half-dozen games where the opponent didn't win 50 or more games last season. But the Clippers ripped off 35 points in the first period thanks to a Golden State defense more reliant on fouling than hard work.
Davis was whistled twice in the first four minutes, and by the end of the first period, Azubuike, Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus all had two as well. Los Angeles was in the penalty siutation with 4:34 left, and it got nine more points at the line before the quarter mercifully ended with the Clippers having gone 15- for-18 from the line.
Golden State dropped into its 1-2-2 zone for much of the rest of the game. That plugged up the foul problem, but allowed the Clippers to start teeing up on wide-open looks at 3-pointers.