It's not been an easy season for ClipsNation, with high expectations and an underperforming team. But at least we're not Warriors fans.
Sure, the Warriors are currently ahead of the Clippers in the Standings, and are within a game of the final playoff spot in the West. Given that the Warriors have the longest current streak of missing the playoffs (12 seasons), being in the hunt this late in the season is a definite treat for Warriors fans. But if either the Warriors or the Clippers sneak into that last playoff spot, they're most likely looking at a first round spanking at the hands of the Mavs or Spurs or Suns. After that, the Clippers have something the Warriors don't have: a future.
But wait a minute you say, don't the Warriors have great young talent in players like starters Monta Ellis (21), Andris Biedrins (20), Mickael Pietrus (24) and Matt Barnes (26)? Well, yes, but odds are most if not all of these players will be playing somewhere else within two seasons.
See, even though these young guns are starting, the Warriors are paying the starter money to a bunch of other guys. In a head-scratching series of moves in 2004 and 2005, Chris Mullin signed / re-signed / extended Adonal Foyle, Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Derek Fisher and Jason Richardson, Foyle until 2009, the rest until 2011. Mullin has managed to dispose of Fisher's 6/$37M contract in a trade with Utah, and Richardson at least appeared to justify 6/$70M when he's not hurt. But Foyle (6/$42M), Murphy (6/$58M) and Dunleavy (5/$45M) are making big money, playing little minutes, and are more or less untradeable. This puts the Warriors in the untenable position of being close to the luxury tax threshold this season, with four guys who are expecting significant raises over the next two seasons.
Mullin's mismanagement of the Warriors is one of the really amazing NBA stories of the last few years. You would hear a lot more about it if it wasn't for Isiah Thomas.
But of course, none of that has any bearing on today's game.
In the same way that Wednesday's big win over Minnesota salvaged the Clippers road trip, wins over the Warriors can erase the effect of Saturday's home loss to the Cavs. The Warriors are a division rival, and are currently ahead of the Clippers in the playoff race. Wins over the Warriors simply count more than losses to the Cavs. So this is a great chance to get the bad taste out of our mouths.
The Warriors are slumping. They have lost three straight by an average of 20 points, the last two at home. They are two games below .500 for the first time this season. They are also battling injuries, in addition to the loss of Richardson. They finished their last game with 8 players available. Pietrus and Foyle both twisted ankles in that game, but I don't know their status for today.
Long term mismanagement aside, the Warriors are a good story this season. The return of Nellie-ball to Oaktown has the Warriors third in the NBA in scoring, behind only the Suns and Wizards. With the Clippers playing MDSr's throwback, walk it up, pound the post basketball, this game will be a classic contrast in styles. The Warriors attempt 23.5 three pointers per game, second in the league. The Clippers attempt 9.2, last in the league. So, will Elton Brand destroy Matt Barnes in the post, or will Matt Barnes drag Elton out to the three point line or run past him on the break?
Baron Davis is having a great season, and the Clippers defense on him will be key. If MDSr sticks with his current Shaun / Cassell / Cat / EB / Kaman lineup, the Livingston will draw the assignment. Unfortunately, with Cassell in the lineup, there's pretty much no one on the Warriors for him to guard, so look for them to attack Sam whenever he is out there. MDSr may tweak the lineup to look for better matchups: QRoss is a possibility against the super quick Ellis, or he could bench Kaman for Thomas, Suns style.
But overall, there's little question that the Clippers have more talent than the Warriors. Sure, there are mismatches all over the floor, but most of them favor the Clips. They've won 7 of their last 8 meetings between the two teams, and they need this win in the playoff race.
Of course there are all the interesting sub-plots; father versus son, trade-bait versus trade-bait, former Clipper Matt Barnes.
I look for the Clippers to bounce back from Saturday with a convincing win today.
Blogging for the Bad Guys: Golden State of Mind