NBA Playoffs Round 1 Game 4 Clippers-Warriors preview -- What distraction?

Thearon W. Henderson

The Clippers have a playoff game to play, despite the asinine comments of their owner. How focused they'll be on their Game 4 confrontation with the Warriors remains to be seen, but a win would give them a commanding 3-1 lead.

2014 NBA Playoffs
First Round
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vs
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57-25

51-31
Game 4 - April 27th, 2014, 12:30 PM
ORACLE Arena
ABC, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Series Schedule
Clippers lead series 2-1
Game 1 - Sat April 19 in Los Angeles,  Warriors 109-Clippers 105
Game 2 - Mon April 21 in Los Angeles, Clippers 138-Warriors 98
Game 3 - Thu April 24 in Oakland, Clippers 98-Warriors 96
Game 4 - Sun April 27, 12:30 p.m., ABC, Oakland, ORACLE Arena
Game 5  Tue April 29, Time TBD, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 6*  Thu May 1, Time TBD, Oakland, ORACLE Arena
Game 7 * Sat May 3, Time TBD, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
* if necessary
Win-Loss Breakdown Regular Season
21-9 East 20-10
36-16 West 31-21
34-7 Home 27-14
23-18 Road 24-17
25-18 .500+ 19-25
32-7 .500- 32-6
7-3 L10 6-4
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Stephen Curry
J.J. Redick SG Klay Thompson
Matt Barnes SF Andre Iguodala
Blake Griffin PF David Lee
DeAndre Jordan C Jermaine O'Neal
Key Reserves
Darren Collison PG Steve Blake
Jamal Crawford SG Jordan Crawford
Danny Granger SF Harrison Barnes
Hedo Turkoglu PF Draymond Green
Glen Davis C Marreese Speights
Advanced Stats 2013-2014 Regular Season
98.39 (7th of 30) Pace 98.53 (6th of 30)
109.4 (1st of 30) ORtg 105.3 (12th of 30)
102.1 (7th of 30) DRtg 99.9 (3rd of 30)
Injuries/Other
None
Andrew Bogut (broken rib) out


Festus Ezeli (knee surgery) out

The Back Story (The teams split the regular season series 2-2):

Date Venue Final

10/31/13 Los Angeles Clippers 126, Warriors 115 Recap Box
12/25/13 Oakland Warriors 105, Clippers 103 Recap Box
01/30/14 Oakland Warriors 111, Clippers 92 Recap Box
03/12/14 Los Angeles Clippers 111, Warriors 98 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

What's that you say? There's a playoff series going on? I had almost forgotten all about it amid the constant discussion of Clippers owner Donald Sterling's ridiculous comments to his girlfriend. Honestly, I can't decide if I'm more disturbed at how racist Sterling is or how stupid he is, but he's plenty of both, so there's no real reason to choose just one. But we're not here to discuss Sterling -- we did that. (And we'll do it plenty more of course.) We're here to discuss the series. The Clippers took back home court advantage with a narrow victory in Game 3 -- they can essentially end it with a win in Game 4. Or the Warriors can make it clear that they do not intend to go quietly with a win of their own. The Warriors have had absolutely no answer for Blake Griffin (short of hoping the refs call a bunch of fouls on him) as he's scored 67 points in the last two games, the two in which he got to play more than 20 minutes. In fact, the Clippers have won two in a row despite the fact that Chris Paul has scored only sparingly -- if he gets going, this series will be over quickly. The Clippers bench has been up and down in the series: magnificent in Game 2, but terrible in Game 1 and not a lot better in Game 3. If the bench can play well again it may make this one another laugher.

The Antagonist:

The Warriors may be feeling a little desperate after two straight losses, so don't be surprised if Mark Jackson responds with some desperation moves. He strongly prefers Draymond Green defending against Griffin (though frankly I haven't noticed that Green has been that much better than David Lee) and he's been going to Green earlier and earlier -- and frankly I suspect that he'll go ahead and start Green today in Game 4. Jackson also had some success in Game 3 with a small lineup where Green was their biggest player. It's a gimmick, but he doesn't have a lot of choices. The lineup won't matter a lot if Stephen Curry doesn't get it going. Curry made 17 of 29 three pointers against the Clippers in the regular season -- he has made 6 of 21 in the playoffs. The Warriors can struggle to score as it is -- but if Curry (and Klay Thompson, who is 7-20) aren't hitting lots of threes, then it really gets tough. But let's not pretend that the Clippers have discovered some magic secret to shutting down Steph Curry -- he'll go off at some point and they will just have to hope to survive when he does.

The Subplots

  • Series preview. Be sure to review the series preview which contains some of the overarching points for the series. I won't repeat those points here.
  • Distraction. The Clippers would love to focus just on the game and not have to deal with the Sterling situation. But they have to deal with it at some level. They held a team meeting on Saturday morning before practice, where they briefly discussed and dismissed the idea of boycotting the playoffs. They want to play and they want to win -- not for Donald Sterling, though perhaps to spite him. But most importantly they want to play for themselves and for each other. But just how focused they can be amid all the controversy remains to be seen.
  • Road wins. Road teams continue to do incredibly well in this season't playoffs. In fact, two of the four Western Conference series have yet to see a home team win. The Clippers would love to see the afternoon crowd in Oakland leave disappointed as so many fans have this postseason.
  • At the Roaracle. The Clippers had lost 15 of their last 17 games in Oakland before Thursday -- which just goes to show you how meaningless those sorts of stats can be. The better team wins in the playoffs most of the time regardless of where the game is played, and the Clippers are the better team.
  • Green. Jackson's comments about how easily things came for Griffin against Lee, and they "need to figure out a way to present some resistance" seem a little ominous when you consider that Green's version of resistance resulting in one flagrant foul and a second that was originally ruled a flagrant foul but was downgraded to a common upon review. Green fouled out as it was -- is Jackson going to run him out there with instructions to hit people even harder and more often? There is a precedent for Jackson have Green target people of course.
  • CP3's health. Chris Paul has played on a strained hamstring since midway through Game 1. He played Game 3 with a fever. He hasn't been at his best on the court, but it would seem that there's been reasons for that. If he's feeling better the Warriors will be in big trouble today.
  • Cross-matching. One of the most interesting aspects of this series is all the crazy cross-matching going on. Basically, none of the perimeter players defend the same guy that is defending them. At the start of the game Paul defends Curry, Curry defends Barnes, Barnes defends Thompson, Thompson defends Redick, Redick defends Iguodala and Iguodala defends Paul. It's more complex than an 18th century Russian novel. And it makes for some strange situations. Barnes has been posting Curry -- while Iggy has been posting Redick (or Jamal Crawford when he comes in). Meanwhile, if you get lost in transition, guys are wide open. Both Thompson and Redick like to take quick threes before their assigned defenders can find them, and Redick has been known to return the favor on the other end. The Clippers have handled their cross matched assignments more fluidly since Game 1, but it's an ongoing challenge.
  • West playoffs. The Grizzlies came within a few seconds last night of taking a 3-1 lead over Oklahoma City and even though that series returns to OKC tied 2-2, the way the Grizzlies have defended Durant and Westbrook makes you believe that they have a real chance to pull the upset. Meanwhile Dallas has a 2-1 lead on San Antonio after Vince Carter's buzzer beater last night with Game 4 also in Dallas. There's a long way to go, but if the underdogs can come through in those series, the Clippers would have home court advantage for as long as they continue in the postseason.
  • Connections. Clippers super sub Jamal Crawford spent most of a season in Oakland between his stints in New York and Atlanta. Matt Barnes really solidified himself as a viable NBA player on the We Believe Warriors of the 2007 playoffs. Steve Blake will spend the trade deadline to the end of the season with the Warriors this year, just as he did with the Clippers in 2010. Warriors coach Mark Jackson was a Clipper in the early 90s. The two coaches tonight were traded for each other back in 1992, with Rivers leaving and Jackson joining the Clippers. Harrison Barnes and Clippers rookie Reggie Bullock were teammates for a season at North Carolina when they were both freshman. The Clippers can thank the Warriors for DeAndre Jordan's current contract, as he signed an offer sheet with Golden State in 2011 which the Clippers matched.
  • Get the Warriors perspective at Golden State of Mind.
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