Matchup: (3) Los Angeles Clippers vs Golden State Warriors (6)
Head-to-Head Record This Season: 2-2, split
What to Expect:
I guess I’ll start with what not to expect. Definitely do not expect to see Andrew Bogut play in this series. When word broke last week Bogut would likely miss the playoffs because of broken ribs, it shattered the hope that this will be the same series we’d been expecting all season. Bogut is Golden State’s second most important player. He’s the source of their toughness, and Bogut sets the tone defensively. The series will suffer in his absence.
With that said, any time you put Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Steph Curry on the court at the same time, the product will be exciting and there will be some amazing highlight reel plays without a doubt. Plus, if you’ve seen these two teams play each other in the past two seasons, it’s clear these two teams don’t have much love for each other. In other words, it’s going to be a bloodbath. Expect a lot of flagrant fouls and technicals, and probably some ejections. Again, Bogut’s absence will have a huge impact in this area as well.
Offensively, I expect the Clippers to have their way with the Warriors. They’re the best offense in the league, and averaged 107.9 points per game during the regular season. The two-headed monster that is Paul and Griffin are basically unstoppable, especially in transition. On a fast break, Griffin is like the love child of a Boeing 747 and a freight train, and he can also pass. If Paul and Griffin are in the zone at the same time, the Warriors have no chance. Remember, Paul missed 20 games this season, and the Clippers still put up those huge numbers offensively. The rest of the Clippers roster is no joke with Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, DeAndre Jordan, Danny Granger, Matt Barnes, and Darren Collison. They can fill it up.
For the Warriors offense, Steph Curry will shoot a ton, and he’ll have to make a bunch for the Warriors to have a chance. Without Bogut clogging up the middle, the Warriors actually might play better offensively than they did at time throughout the regular season. They’re roster is built to run and shoot, not slow the ball down like they do at times. Everyone knows Curry and Thompson are deadly three-point shooters, but Andre Igoudala, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes are decent shooters as well. Bogut’s absence will make the Warriors play small with Green and Barnes at the four and move David Lee up to the center position. I expect Barnes and Green to play well because each is comfortable playing the small-ball four spot. The Warriors are going to spread the Clippers out and try to take advantage of that spacing with ball movement and creating opportunities with Curry via the pick-and-roll.
Chris Paul vs. Steph Curry
It’s not everyday the best two point guards in one conference match up against each other in the first round. I foresee a lot of Paul matched up with Curry, but I don’t see a lot of Curry guarding Paul, if the Warriors can help it at least. Winning this matchup will be a major key to winning the series.
Blake Griffin vs. Draymond Green
Green was one of the reasons Griffin was ejected in the Christmas Day meeting between these two teams. These guys are going to go at it again. It’s inevitable at this point.It’ll be interesting to see how each player reacts after the other player gets under their skin. Griffin is much more important to the Clippers than Green is to Golden State. If it comes to fisticuffs and Green and Griffin get ejected, the Warriors have the advantage.
Why the Clippers Will Win:
The Clippers are just better than the Warriors, plain and simple. They have an offensive advantage at every position except whoever Andre Igoudala decides to guard. The Clippers have too much depth and fire power on offense for the Warriors to stop them. Finally, the Clippers have everyone healthy, which hasn’t been the case for most of the season and more than the Warriors can say at this point.
Defensively, the Clippers aren’t great, but they’re not as bad as there points per game numbers might suggest. The Clippers play so fast and score quickly, so the opponent typically has more opportunities to score. Still, it needs to be mentioned that DeAndre Jordan is not an elite defender, contrary to what some people will tell you. He has gotten better since Doc arrived, but he’s not the second coming of Bill Russell like Doc might want people to believe. The lack of decent backup big men could be a problem if Griffin or Jordan get into foul trouble or ejected. (It’s happened against the Warriors before.)
Why the Warriors Will Win:
THE EWING THEORY! Imagine this scenario: Andrew Bogut, the second best player on the team, breaks some ribs in the last two weeks of the season, causing the media to write them off completely against a finally-healthy-at-the-right-time and favored Clippers team. Without Bogut clogging up the lane and Head Coach Mark Jackson demanding the Dubs work the ball inside to him, Golden State finally starts to play like we’ve been begging them to all season and starts running D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” Offense. Expecting to walk over the Warriors without Bogut, the Clippers are caught off guard and can’t figure out how to play with the super up-tempo Warriors.
That’s the extreme, but if the Warriors can hit 15 to 20 threes in four out of the seven games and somehow manage to slow down the offensive juggernaut that is the Clippers, they will win the series.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but seriously, without Andrew Bogut, the Warriors don’t have a chance to beat the Clippers. There will be a few close games, and Steph might be able to work enough magic to win one, but this series is all about the new law firm in town Paul, Griffin and Associates.
Clippers win in five.