The Big Picture:
The Clippers have arguably their most promising and anticipated team ever, and their season has gotten off to a start worthy of the anticipation. Two wins in two games isn't necessarily a reason to clear room in the trophy case, but when the victims are the Memphis Grizzlies (last season's playoff opponent) and the Los Angeles Lakers (the team they will be battling for the Pacific Division, playoff positioning and the hearts of Angelinos) the wins matter more. They can extend to 3-0 with a win over the Warriors tonight, a team that will be without a key rotation player and their starting center. These two teams met a couple of weeks ago in the preseason and the Clippers were pretty dominant in that game. The Warriors are dangerous -- they've got some great shooters and are much deeper than they have been in recent seasons and so better able to withstand the absence of some key players -- but it's hard to imagine that they're going to be able to stop a Clippers team that is playing very well to start the season.
Center Andrew Bogut joined the Warriors via trade last February, and so far has played 36 minutes for the team as he continues to recover from ankle surgery. He won't be adding to that total tonight as the Warriors have said he will not play in back to back games during November. Without Bogut, the Warriors will start rookie Festus Ezeli, who has been a pleasant surprise for them
out of the second round with the last pick in the first round, but is a rookie nonetheless. Like Bogut, Stephen Curry has his own history of ankle issues. He tweaked his ankle yet again in preseason, missing the game with the Clippers, but has returned for the regular season. He was terrible in game 1, going 2-14, but bounced back in game 2 to shoot 10-20 on his way to 26 points and 7 assists. Adding to the Warriors injury issues, sixth man Brandon Rush suffered a nasty looking knee injury in Friday night's loss to the Grizzlies. Rush will have an MRI soon, but everyone suspects the worst on this one -- if you haven't seen the play, it wasn't quite Shaun Livingston bad, but it was bad. Mark Jackson would like to change the Warriors identity to make them more of a defensive team, but without their interior anchor in Bogut tonight and without their best perimeter defender in Rush, these will be the same old defenseless Warriors, and their only hope against the Clippers will be to make a ton of threes and outscore them.
- Highlighted preview comment. "If i'm the GSW and want to go anywhere this season, I don't let Curry try and defend Jamal at all tonight. Just let him get past you Steph, 2 points by Jamal is not worth losing half your season." Citizen osamu
- The Questionable Blogger. I exchanged questions with Nate Parham from the seminal Warriors blog Golden State of Mind prior to the game. Be sure to check out his answers, and head over to GSoM for my answers to his questions.
- Comparison of key metrics. When Mark Jackson was hired as the Warriors coach, he talked big about defense. Well, in his first season in Oakland, the Warriors were just as bad defensively as ever -- only three NBA teams were worse. Of course, by the end the Dubs were so far in the tank, trying desperately to hold onto their first round draft pick, that it's hard to know what to think of numbers from last year's team. They're probably irrelevant.
- Back-to-back. Both teams are coming off games last night, but the Clippers have the advantage that they've been in L.A. the whole time. They also have the depth to have spread around the minutes pretty well. For instance, Curry and Thompson played 43 and 38 minutes last night compared to 34 and 33 minutes for Paul and Griffin.
- Warriors in the playoffs? Don't look now, but this Warriors team is very talented and could be very good this season. If healthy, a starting lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Bogut has several proven players and a couple with huge upside. They also have guys like Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry coming off the bench, and even with Rush out they can still turn to Richard Jefferson behind Barnes. With Kevin Love hurt in Minnesota and Dirk Nowitzki hurt in Dallas, the Warriors have to be thinking they can get off to a fast start and get right into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, assuming they themselves can overcome injuries. Bogut's minutes restrictions put a definite crimp in that plan.
- Hack-a-Jordan. Mark Jackson was quick to use the Hack-a-Jordan strategy last season. So far this year, DeAndre is more of a threat with the ball, and even worse at the line, so the dubious strategy becomes more attractive. Don't be surprised if Jackson fouls both Jordan and Griffin intentionally tonight. Andris Biedrins has to be good for something. Jordan had 18 points and 12 rebounds in just 24 minutes in the preseason game, shooting 8-11 from the field and 2-5 from the line -- so yeah, I'd foul him (though not intentionally).
- Odom. With both Jordan and Griffin potential targets for a fouling strategy, Lamar Odom could be key tonight. He's looked good but not great so for in two games. Defending David Lee and/or Carl Landry, facilitating the offense and making free throws are key contributions he can make tonight.
- Defending the perimeter. David Lee is a nice player, and Carl Landry has always given the Clippers trouble, but even they are more face up type forwards. The Clippers will need to stay glued to jump shooters in this game, because the one way they could lose to the Warriors is if guys like Curry and Thompson and the like start knocking down open jumpers. Green and Crawford and Butler and Barnes are going to have to focus on staying home on shooters.
- Jamal Crawford. When the Clippers picked up Jamal Crawford this summer, many, myself included, were lukewarm on the signing. Yes, he fit a need, but his reputation as an inefficient scorer had me concerned. Well, Crawford was arguably the team's best player in preseason and has led them in scoring in their first two games, and is making a believer of his doubters. He's been simply terrific, and could have a field day against the defense of Klay Thompson and the defensively challenged Warriors tonight.
- Former Warriors. As with the Lakers Friday night, this game features several Clippers facing their former team. The well-traveled Crawford spent most of a season in Oakland between his stints in New York and Atlanta. Ronny Turiaf signed a big contract with the Warriors when he left the Lakers back in 2008 and spent a couple seasons there. And Matt Barnes really solidified himself as a viable NBA player on the We Believe Warriors of the 2007 playoffs (the last time the Dubs made the playoffs, btw).
- Eric Bledsoe. I have a feeling this will be Bledsoe's regular season breakout game. He lost minutes to Willie Green against the Grizzlies for some unknown reason, and then lost minutes to Matt Barnes against the Lakers because Barnes was defending Kobe Bryant. Against this Warriors team, there's no reason Bledsoe can't play extended minutes alongside Chris Paul. Bledsoe also had a spectacular game last season against the Warriors last season where his defensive pressure produced 4 steals in 16 minutes and almost brought the Clippers back in a bad home loss.
- Bad losses. The mark of good teams is that they avoid letdowns. Playing at home against a team that is missing key players is a game good teams have to win. Their home loss against the Warriors last season was one of the Clippers worst losses of the season. Let's hope Vinny Del Negro and especially Chris Paul remember that game and take care of things tonight.
- Get the Warriors perspective at Golden State of Mind.
- Lyrical reference:
Jethro Tull -- Baker Street Muse
Indian restaurants that curry my brain.
Newspaper warriors changing the names they advertise from the station stand.
With cold print hands.
Symphony word-player, I'll be your headline.
If you catch me another time.
So we're reaching back a bit here for a Jethro Tull song from the 1975 album Minstrel in the Gallery, but I'm old enough to have listened to it when it was new. As it happens, I recently saw Ian Anderson in concert performing Thick as Brick and Thick as a Brick II, and I have to say TaaB really holds up, 40 years later. I find Minstrel to be an underrated Tull album -- always one of my favorites.