By JANIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO — The first victory of the Clippers’ Russell Westbrook Era remains elusive.
Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points but he was the only Clippers who had a good shooting night as the Clippers built an 11-point halftime lead and then crumbled under a barrage of misses for their fourth straight loss.
Jordan Poole scored 34 points, Klay Thompson had 19 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors used another big second-half surge to rally past the Clippers, 115-91, on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.
Even with starters Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins still on the sidelines, the defending champions are suddenly looking like a serious contender again no matter how far they might fall behind.
“I just feel there’s a grit that comes with defense that allows you to shake it off and keep playing,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his team’s comebacks.
Leonard hit a deep 3-pointer to beat the buzzer that ended the second quarter, putting the cold-shooting Clippers ahead 56-45 at halftime.
Then the Warriors came charging back with a 42-point third quarter while holding the Clippers to 16 points in the period to lead 87-72 heading into the final 12 minutes. Golden State did the same thing with a comeback win against Portland on Tuesday night.
“They got up 11, but we were still right there because we were defending and taking care of the ball,” Draymond Green said. “To have those couple third quarters like we’ve had the last two games gives you something to build upon, you feel good about yourself and also understand what it takes coming out of the half.”
Green added 11 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a physical battle between rivals fighting for playoff position in the tightly packed Western Conference. Donte DiVincenzo struggled with his shot, going 2 for 10, but grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds.
The Clippers’ Mason Plumlee had a season-best 20 rebounds and his 14 in the initial two quarters were the most of his career in any half. Eric Gordon made his first start in six games since joining the Clippers in a trade from Houston and scored 16 points in the team’s fourth straight defeat and sixth in eight.
The Clippers finished just 9 for 43 from 3-point range – missing 18 of 19 to begin the second half.
Gordon was 2 for 10 from behind the arc and Westbrook missed all five of his attempts while going 3 for 12 from the floor overall to score eight points with the Warriors sagging off of him. Paul George was held to 11 points and finished 3 for 15 from the field (1 for 8 from 3-point range).
Green is certain it made Leonard think and Golden State’s defense keyed another win.
“We’re finding a really good space right now,” Poole said, “we’ve just got to keep it going.”
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue and his team came in with a game plan to get back in transition and limit turnovers, but they committed 16 that led to 29 Golden State points. The Clippers have 79 turnovers in their past four games.
Curry could return as soon as Sunday – against the Lakers – after scrimmaging for a third straight day.
“He’s getting close,” Kerr said.
Curry missed his 10th consecutive game with a left leg injury after getting hurt against Dallas on Feb. 4. Kerr credited the reigning NBA Finals MVP for his energy rehabbing the latest injury.
“He’s been working really hard. I think within days of the injury, he was on the bike and it was impressive just watching him on the bike, I mean, how hard he goes,” Kerr said. “He’s really amazing when it comes to his conditioning level and his commitment to keeping it high.”
Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. (left elbow contusion) and center Ivica Zubac (right calf soreness) sat out after coming into the game listed as questionable on the injury report. … Whether Leonard and George will play in Friday’s back-to-back in Sacramento was to be determined after the game. The Clippers have lost the last three and eight of 11 in the second game when they play on consecutive days. … Of Westbrook’s addition, Lue said, “It’s going to take a little time just adjusting to playing a certain style of basketball.”
The Clippers play at Sacramento on Friday at 7 p.m. to complete a road-road back-to-back.