Clippers at Golden State - Game Preview

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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ORACLE Arena
December 25th, 2011, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, ESPN, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul PG Stephen Curry?
Chauncey Billups SG Monta Ellis
Caron Butler SF Dorell Wright
Blake Griffin PF David Lee
DeAndre Jordan C Andris Biedrins

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. Last season the teams split four games, each winning two at home.

The Big Picture:

Here we go. The most highly anticipated season in the history of the Clippers gets started as the night cap of the NBA's opening day. A national TV audience will be watching the regular season debut of Lob City. The Clippers have three new starters, all acquired since Dec. 9th, so they have some pieces to fit together. But when one of those pieces is Chris Paul, it makes it a lot easier on everyone else. The Clippers looked awfully good in two pre-season wins against the Lakers, and appeared to be more or less on the same page already, despite limited practice time together. After a few more practices, hopefully they'll be that much sharper tonight. If you like your basketball chock full of highlights, this is the game for your, as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan should be flying to the rim against the (usually) defenseless Warriors.

The Antagonist:

If the Clippers are a candidate for "Best Offseason" then the Warriors are pretty much battling the Lakers for the dubious honor of "Worst Offseason". The Warriors desperately wanted to get in on the Chris Paul trade action - but weren't on the list of destinations where Paul was willing to stay two years, so were never serious contenders. They wanted to sign Nene, who stayed in Denver. They wanted to sign Tyson Chandler, who went to New York. Still longing for a center, they used their amnesty on Charlie Bell (a relatively cheap contract they could have kept, saving amnesty for a subsequent year) and renounced their rights to Reggie Williams (a very useful wing who average 9 points per game for them last year) in order to clear the cap space to give DeAndre Jordan an offer sheet - which the Clippers promptly matched, leaving the Warriors with no amnesty, no Reggie Williams, and still no new center. They finally ended up with Kwame Brown (cue the sad game show music). Then, last Tuesday in the course of about 5 hours, starting point guard sprained his troublesome right ankle, and they found out that his backcourt mate Monta Ellis was being sued for sexual harassment. What effect the lawsuit may have on Ellis remains to be seen; Curry's ankle is considered day-to-day and he may or may not play in this game. The Warriors do have some things that they hope will be positive, namely new head coach Mark Jackson, lottery pick Klay Thompson, and second year forward Ekpe Udoh who they are hoping will take a step forward after an injury-shortened rookie season.

The Subplots

  • Deja vu? The following is the first bullet from the last time the Clippers played the Warriors, last January:

    Ellis Injured? In the final seconds of overtime against the Kings, Monta Ellis had his ankle rolled in a melee going after a loose ball. He had to be carried off the court. Since the game was already decided, there was no need for him to return, and there's not much word on the injury at this time. A tweet from the Warriors says it's a sprained left ankle and will be X-rayed Saturday morning. It's hard to imagine him playing on a back to back with a sprained ankle, but he is an iron man - he's leading the league in minutes per game. Another tweet from Warriors beat writer Geoff Lepper says Monta's status for tonight's game is "TBD".

    Ellis played 42 minutes in that game. Seems like the Warriors guards find a way to play against the Clippers even when we don't expect them to.
  • Curry a monster versus the Clippers. Steph Curry has averaged 21 points per game in eight games against the Clippers, three points higher than his overall average. But among those eight, he's had games of 36, 32 and 29 against the Clippers, his only career triple double.
  • Christmas Day Lineup. This game was added to the Christmas Day TV lineup even before the Clippers acquired Chris Paul. That's how much hype was around Blake Griffin on a 32 win team. Now that it's Paul and Griffin and Lob City, ESPN is no doubt scrambling to add more Clippers games to the TV schedule.
  • Great expectations. The Clippers have never gone into a season with such high expectations. Everyone predicts they'll make the playoffs. Some have them in the Western Conference Finals. They've been labeled "contenders", whatever that means. Tonight it gets real. The Clippers haven't won anything yet - they need to show who they are on the court.
  • Mark Jackson. We'll see how he does as the Warriors new head coach, but count me among the skeptics. This is Jackson's first coaching experience of any kind. He has never been a head coach, he has never been an assistant coach. Obviously he's been around the game, as a player and then as a TV analyst, but it's not the same thing. And if his TV work is any indication of the level of insight he has into the game, the Warriors are in trouble. Doc Rivers aside, ex-players who move straight into the first chair without first serving an apprenticeship are rarely successful (see Del Negro, Vinny).
  • Stability. For what it's worth, the Warriors could be starting the same lineup tonight that went against the Clippers last season. The Clippers on the other hand have three new starters. Of course, two of those are replacing guys that are still on the roster and have been moved to the bench, and all three of them have made multiple All Star teams. I'll take the major upgrade of the stability any day.
  • Guarantees. Jackson has guaranteed that the Warriors will make the playoffs. Of course, Mo Williams guaranteed the same thing about the Clippers, and there are probably 13 other guarantees out there in the Western Conference if you look hard enough. They can't all be right. Jackson's team will have to pass at least three of the eleven teams that finished ahead of them in the Conference last season - not to mention the Clippers, who have now leapfrogged them from a talent standpoint. The good news for the Dubs (and other outsiders in the West) is that teams like New Orleans and Utah and Phoenix and Houston would seem to be diminished this season, so there's an opportunity. Still, it's hard to see what the Warriors did this summer to significantly increase from their 36 wins last season.
  • Three point shooting - Warriors. In each of the two Clipper losses last season, the Warriors made 14 threes. In the two Clipper wins, the Warriors made 7 and 9 threes. Golden State was fifth in three pointers made last season, and second in percentage at over 39%. They did lose to of their three point threats (Wiliams and former Clipper Vladimir Radmanovic), but they added Brandon Rush. The Clippers need to stay home on Curry and Dorell Wright and contest those threes, something they didn't do particularly well Wednesday as the Lakers made a dozen.
  • Three point shooting - Clippers. The Clippers have never had so many shooters on their roster - never. Eight of the top ten players currently in the rotation (ignoring Reggie Evans for the time being) are legitimate three point threats. The second unit against in the pre-season, with Brian Cook and rookie Trey Thompkins at the bigs, featured FIVE shooters at once. One thing is for certain - when the threes are falling this season, the Clippers will be very difficult to beat.
  • Matchups. After facing the Lakers in pre-season, with their massive and talented front line and the biggest and most lethal shooting guard in the league, the Clippers will be relieved by the matchups in Oakland. The back court is very talented, but small, so can't exploit a size advantage. The center spot will be split between Andris Biedrins and Kwame Brown, neither a threat to hurt the Clippers the way Andrew Bynum did. DeAndre Jordan can feel free to roam all over the court looking for blocked shots, and the Clippers can bring in Cook to play the five without fear of being pummeled on defense. Meanwhile, Blake Griffin really should have his way with David Lee.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    warrior

    n. Anyone who proves his strength by intentionally enduring something painful, difficult, or incredibly stupid.

    Dave drank damn near that entire keg, thus proving that he's a true warrior.
  • Get the Warriors perspective at Golden State of Mind.

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