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Clippers-Warriors preview: Avenging a bad loss

The Warriors can clinch the season series with the Clippers with a win tonight. That may or may not end up mattering at the end of the year (odds are it won't) but let's not find out.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

January 5th, 2013, 7:30 PM
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Stephen Curry
Willie Green SG Klay Thompson
Caron Butler SF Harrison Barnes
Blake Griffin PF David Lee
DeAndre Jordan C Festus Ezeli
Advanced Stats (thru games of 1/3)
92.1 (12th of 30) Pace 93.9 (5th of 30)
109.7 (5th of 30) ORtg 107.0 (9th of 30)
100.6 (3rd of 30) DRtg 103.7 (9th of 30)
Chauncey Billups (ankle) out
Andrew Bogut (ankle) out
Grant Hill (knee) out
Brandon Rush (knee) out
Trey Thompkins (knee) out

Jamal Crawford (foot) doubtful

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers' have only lost eight of their 34 games this season -- but two of those losses have come at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are currently second in the Pacific Division and have moved up into fourth in the Western Conference and are brimming with confidence. A Warriors win tonight would bring them within two games of the Clippers (one in the loss column) AND would guarantee them the advantage in the season series with only one game left between the two teams after tonight. The Clippers certainly have plenty of motivation in this game after getting their lunch money taken away in Oakland three nights ago -- but for the second meeting in a row the Clippers are playing the second game of a back-to-back while the Dubs come in as rested as an NBA team can be mid-season. The Clippers may have another big disadvantage if Jamal Crawford has to miss his second consecutive game with a sore foot. It may not seem like as big a game as the Lakers, but the Lakers are now 10 games back while the Warriors are right on the doorstep, so guess what? It's actually bigger. A Warriors win has them fully convinced that they have the Clippers' number and can chase them down in the Pacific Division race. A Clippers win sets the house back in order.

The Antagonist:

The Warriors are downright scary at this point. When they are making shots, they can beat any team in the league, and they make shots like no one else. You don't even have to run much of an offense when you have as many truly great shooters as they do. It's just space the floor and shoot and you have a really good chance to win. Of course, it's not entirely surprising that the Warriors can score; they've had plenty of teams that can score in the past 18 seasons while they were missing the playoffs 17 times. What is surprising is the way they've been playing defense. When these two teams met on Wednesday, the Warriors held the Clippers to 36% shooting -- their worst shooting performance of the season. And that's not a one-off -- on the season the Warriors are holding their opponents to .427 shooting, the second lowest opponent shooting percentage in the league. Given that David Lee and Stephen Curry are supposed to be really bad individual defenders, it's difficult to say how the Warriors are doing this, but you can't argue with results. At this point Golden State is in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency on the season -- and only three teams in the league can say that (Clippers and Spurs are the other two).

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. Both of these teams have advanced into the upper tiers of the league based on significant improvements on the defensive end.
  • Moving on. The Clippers were going to lose eventually of course and the important thing now is that they move on from their first loss in over a month. There's certainly no reason to be overly concerned with the Denver game. They played badly, they shot especially poorly (5-29 on threes, 13-29 from the line) -- it happens. Wednesday is another game.
  • Pacific Division. Amazingly, the Clippers and Warriors, who have been doormats in the Pacific Division for decades, find themselves 1-2 in the Division as the only teams above .500. Heading into tonight's game, the Clippers hold a 3 game lead over the Warriors, two games in the loss column. The Lakers, Suns and Kings, all three very much accustomed to sitting in the top positions of the Division for a decade (in the case of the Kings) or much, much longer (in the case of the Suns and Lakers) are currently bringing up the rear in the Pacific. Clippers and Warriors fans may not agree on how they want this game to come out, but they can certainly agree on wanting the Suns and Lakers to taste some lotteries for once.
  • Rested Warriors. We knew this going into the week, but this is ridiculous. After the game Wednesday, the Warriors flew to L.A. the next day. They've been hanging and practicing in SoCal, completely focused on beating the Clippers while the Clippers were dealing with the Lakers. The Warriors, with only one opponent ALL WEEK have basically been able to treat the Clippers like a playoff matchup -- break down hours of film, gear entire practices to stopping what the Clippers do, etc. The Warriors have probably had Charles Jenkins wearing number 3 all week, pretending he's CP3 and working on the best ways to contain him. Meanwhile, the Clippers will have a walk thru before the Dubs game tomorrow where the coaches will remind the guys that Curry and Thompson are pretty good shooters and that they should stay up on them and that's about it, because there's just not enough time for much more than that.
  • Three straight. It's not easy beating a team three straight. While the team that has won the first two would seem to have the psychological edge, it's really the team that has lost two that tends to play with a sense of urgency and pride, not wanting to lose that third one. The risk in this specific game is that the Clippers will experience a let down after the emotional roller coaster of beating the Lakers last night, but here's hoping that they do indeed have a sense of urgency against the Dubs.
  • Aren't shooters great? If there's one blind spot in NBA front offices, I think they undervalue shooters. The Clippers have had one great shooter -- I mean, drop dead can't miss if he's got an open look it's just plain going in great -- since I've been rooting for them, and that was Steve Novak. They got him for nothing and then they let him walk away for nothing. I get it that everyone wants great athletes and you can't teach length and athleticism yadda yadda yadda -- but you still win the game by putting the ball in the basket, and it's a friggin' luxury to have a bunch of guys who can do it like the Warriors do. How in the world did Steph Curry get drafted after Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn and Tyreke Evans? I mean, did they not see him play in college? The guy is unreal.
  • Curry. On Wednesday, Curry had 31 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds against the Clippers. He made 11 of 16 shots, including 6-8 on three pointers. Accounting for those threes, his effective field goal percentage on the game was .875. And here's the thing -- it barely stands out among the career games he's had against the Clippers. As a rookie, he had a triple-double with 36 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds against the Clippers, and he's had other games of 31 and 29, all with remarkable shooting. In 13 career games against the Clippers (most he's played against any opponent, lucky us) he's made 46% of his three pointers -- and frankly it's felt like much more than that. Please, please, please stay up on the guy.
  • More Curry. Frankly, I don't know how you even defend him. Name another player who can shoot from pretty much anywhere, off the dribble, with such a quick release? Based on what he does to the Clippers, I'm actually quite baffled that he doesn't average about 30 per game and 50% three point shooting. How can you defend a guy who shoots that well?
  • Griffin. Griffin had arguably his worst game as a pro Wednesday night in Oakland against the Dubs. He had never taken 10 or more shots while making less than 20% from the field before going 2-11 in that game (and he needed a garbage time basket against Draymond Green to avoid a 1-10 night). The Warriors played him very physical, and hopefully the refs at a Clippers home game will give him a few more calls. But he also seemed lethargic and flat on Wednesday, allowing the Golden State defenders to push him around without fighting back much. I have to figure he'll be looking for a certain amount of retribution tonight. The good news is that foul trouble kept him on the bench a lot against the Lakers so he should be relatively fresh.
  • Paul. If Griffin could be fresh, Paul may not be. He played a season high 41 in the win over the Lakers last night and carried a very heavy scoring load. He may have to do so again tonight if Crawford is unable to play.
  • Rematch. Since we just played these guys, I'm not going to worry about a bunch more bullets. Go back and read Wednesday's preview if you like. Not a lot more to say for this one.
  • Connections. Clippers super sub Jamal 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. 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). Warriors coach Mark Jackson was a Clipper back in the early 90s. Chris Paul, Willie Green, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry were all teammates during Paul's final season in New Orleans.
  • Get the Warriors perspective at Golden State of Mind.
  • Lyrical reference:

    I Can Be a Frog -- The Flaming Lips

    She said I can be a frog
    I can be a bat
    I can be a bear
    I can be a cat
    She said I can be a lion
    I can be a Gila monster
    I can be a warrior Indian
    I can be a helicopter

    I spend some amount of my time trying to introduce friends and acquaintances to music that I like. I'm not a music expert, but I have more things in my iTunes library than most people I know. No great band is a tougher sell than Flaming Lips. I love Flaming Lips -- love, love, love them. But they are hard to approach, and even harder to describe. If you don't know them, give them a try -- I recommend Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots if you're interested. But make sure you go into it with an open mind because this is not particularly like anything else I know.