Clippers vs. Golden State - Game Preview

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 25: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers celebrates against the Golden State Warriors during the season opener at Oracle Arena on December 25, 2011 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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19-10
11-17
ORACLE Arena
February 20th, 2012, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul PG Stephen Curry
Randy Foye SG Monta Ellis
Caron Butler SF Dorell Wright
Blake Griffin PF David Lee
DeAndre Jordan C Andris Biedrins

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers lost a game on Saturday that they should have won, in a manner that was almost surreal. But the beauty (or the curse) of the NBA schedule is that there's always another game. They need to put Saturday in the rearview mirror and focus on beating the Warriors in Oakland tonight. It certainly won't erase the San Antonio loss, but it will ease the pain some. The Clippers haven't lost back to back games since the third game of the season, and now is not the time to start. Speaking of starting though, it would be helpful if Chris Paul would show up for the start of this game rather than waiting for the end. Sure, it's exciting coming back in the fourth quarter and all, but maybe it would be better not to have to do that. You never know what crazy thing might happen if you are clinging to a three point lead in the final seconds. For two straight games Paul has been invisible for three quarters (scoreless in Portland Thursday, two points on Saturday) and then a monster in the fourth (13 Thursday, 17 Saturday). Hopefully he won't have to have a monster game against the Warriors, as Blake Griffin should enjoy a pretty significant advantage against the GSW bigs.

The Antagonist:

Like the Clippers, the Warriors are coming off a difficult loss on Saturday, when they lost to the Girzzlies in Memphis on a tip in with less than a second remaining. The Warriors had been playing pretty well, winning three straight recently -- but then they turned around and lost three straight. Two of those were heartbreakers, so at least they've been playing teams close. Like the Clippers, the Warriors are better on offense than they are on defense. Unfortunately, they're a little worse than the Clippers in both regards, enough to be the difference between a winning team and a losing team. The Warriors have three very good players in Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee and they are capable of hanging numbers on anyone. They also get great crowd support at the Oracle, so the Clippers should certainly not be taking this game lightly.

The Subplots

  • [Note by Steve Perrin, 02/20/12 12:05 PM PST ] Hack-a-Blake. Citizen lobmeister made a good point in the comments and I decided to add a bullet about it. On January 12th, Dwight Howard set an all time NBA record with 39 free throws because Mark Jackson employed the Hack-a-Dwight strategy. With one free throw shooter worse than Dwight (DeAndre Jordan) and one only slightly better, it's possible the Warriors will use a similar tactic tonight. The Warriors bigs won't be quite as defenseless against Blake as they were against Dwight, but it's not clear that even factors into the strategy. For what it's worth, it's a terrible strategy in any situation other than a team behind big in the fourth quarter. It rarely works even then, but is a reasonable desperation tactic.
  • Key Warriors metrics:
    Pace: 92.7 (8th of 30 NBA teams)
    Offensive Efficiency: 105.7 (7th of 30)
    Defensive Effeciency: 107.8 (26th of 30)
    The Warriors play fast -- but not nearly as fast as they did under Don Nelson and Keith Smart. What hasn't changed under Mark Jackson is the defense, which is still among the worst in the league.
  • Key Clippers metrics:
    Pace: 89.9 (21st of 30)
    Offensive Efficiency: 107.6 (4th of 30)
    Defensive Effeciency: 104.5 (19th of 30)
  • Bad West teams. There are eleven teams in the Western conference with a record of .500 or better. That means there are only four with losing records (New Orleans, Sacramento, Phoenix and Golden State). This will be only the second time, in 30 games, that the Clippers are playing one of those four teams. They'll have a dozen games after the All Star break against these sub-.500 West teams. These teams are still dangerous, particularly the Suns and Warriors -- but if the Clippers take care of business against them, it will be a big boost for their second half record.
  • Tough Luck Warriors. Twice in their last three games, all of them losses, the Warriors had a lead in the final seconds only to lose. At home against the Blazers on Wednesday, and then Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors had their hearts broken. The Clippers know what that feels like.
  • Tough Losses for both teams. Both teams are coming off heartbreaking losses. The team that is still dwelling on the one that got away will be the team that loses tonight. You have to put it behind you and move on.
  • Eric Bledsoe. Eric Bledsoe got his most significant minutes of the season to date, in the third quarter Saturday. He was brought in to defend Tony Parker and the team went on a 17-0 run when he entered the game. It's entirely possible we could see Bledsoe against Monta Ellis tonight if the other Clipper guards are having trouble containing him.
  • Monta Expendable? Down the stretch of that very close Portland loss, Monta Ellis was on the bench. Which is strange, given that Monta is always near the top of the league leaders in minutes per game. After the game coach Mark Jackson said that Monta wasn't feeling well, but Ellis told a reporter that he felt fine. At least one reporter in the bay area sees this as an indication that the Warriors would like to phase Ellis out, and build around Steph Curry and rookie Klay Thompson in the backcourt. Of course, Monta scored 33 points in 42 minutes on Saturday, so he hasn't exactly been phased out yet. He probably really was a little under the weather Wednesday, just like Jackson said.
  • Monta, All Star snub. The other day the subject of NBA announcers came up on a thread, and I mentioned some of the dumb things Jon Barry said during that Warriors-Blazers game on ESPN last Wednesday. I just remembered another one. He mentioned multiple times how Ellis should have been an All Star, and seemed pretty adamant about the whole thing. Then, when Dan Shulman asked him whom he would have left off the team, if he thought Ellis deserved to be there in front of Steve Nash or Tony Parker, he said no, those guys were definitely All Stars too. Turns out, Barry's solution was to have more spots on the team. So there you have it: according to Jon Barry, Monta Ellis is a massive All Star game snub, in a world where he's allowed to change the definition of All Star.
  • Which Curry shows up? Steph Curry has had some huge games against the Clippers, including games of 36, 32 and 29, and his only career triple double. But he scored just four in the first meeting back on Christmas Day. I have a bad feeling that Curry the Clipper Killer will show up tonight.
  • 8 for 31. Ellis and Curry combined to shoot 8 for 31 in the first meeting between these teams. Odds are, they're going to be a lot better than that tonight.
  • Mark Jackson. Reviews are mixed on his first couple months as the Warriors 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).
  • Jackon vs. Del Negro on the court. I always find it interesting to look at the history of coaches who were former players against each other. Mark Jackson and Vinny Del Negro were in the NBA together for a dozen seasons, and faced each other 25 times. As you might expect Jackson held the statistical advantage in those matchups -- his teams also won 14 of the 25 games.
  • 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 is second in the league in three point percentage, third in three pointers made per game. A team that already had some shooters, the highest three point percentages on the team belong to newcomers Brandon Rush and Klay Thompson. Rush (1st), Thompson (6th) and Curry (9th) are all in the top ten in the league in three point percentage, and Dorell Wright made more threes than any player in the league last season. So you must stay glued to these guys.
  • Three point shooting - Clippers. The Warriors have always taken a lot of threes, but it's something new for the Clippers. The Clippers have actually taken MORE threes than the Warriors this season, though they've made a lower percentage. Prior to the Spurs game (another three happy team) I predicted that the team that made more threes would win. Sure enough, the Spurs won the three point contest 12-8, and won the game. I'm going with the same prediction tonight.
  • Matchups. The Clippers match up well with the Warriors. None of their wings are post up threats, meaning that the Clippers can play Mo Williams at the shooting guard or even go to a three guard set without worrying much about being exploited. On the other hand, no one on the Warriors with the possible exception of Ekpe Udoh can handle Blake Griffin. When the Warriors have the ball, Griffin's defense on David Lee will be a key.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    warrior

    n. A synonym for Pokemon. If you like Pokemon and talk about it with your friends and dont want to get embarassed by other people relealizing what crap you are talking about, you say warrior.

    Rhydon and Articuno are my favourite warriors.
  • Get the Warriors perspective at Golden State of Mind
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