The Back Story (Warriors Lead Season Series 1-0):
||Warriors 121, Clippers 104 (but really much worse than that)
The Big Picture
You can keep your Red Rider BB gun, Ralphie. No Christmas gift is going to get better than this:
Remember that? Before the Chris Paul season one mental highlight reel kicks in and you get overtaken by Memphis Comeback euphoria, do me a favor. Try to remember how you felt about the Warriors back then. As recently as 2011, the Dubs were at most an afterthought to Clippers fans. For most of the 2000's, they were in many ways even our foils: a California franchise with a dormant Lakers rivalry that was best known for battling for an 8 seed before slipping away in March and April. Late at night, both fan bases would sustain themselves by YouTubing clips of their one mid-2000's playoff run (I'll admit, they might have more iconic YouTube memories than us).
Fast forward just three years, and Christmas isn't Christmas unless Blake Griffin and Draymond Green are being called for double techs and one team is refusing to host midnight mass with the other. While to me Memphis still reigns as the Clippers' biggest rival, the Warriors top many citizens' list as their most loathsome opponent. And by now, Clipper players may feel that way as well.
Whether you like the Christmas Day media hype or not, whether you think the Dubs rivalry is overblown or not, it's hard to argue that this isn't a big game for the Clippers. Because a win tonight would accomplish the following:
- Stem the recent skid of three losses in their last four. You can argue much of that skid was schedule-induced, and the team was competitive in the fourth quarter in all three road losses. But a skid is a skid is a skid.
- Quiet the "four days, five nights, four time zones" chatter that the Clippers are physically and emotionally drained.
- Avenge the nationally-televised, high-profile shellacking the Clippers endured in November.
- Register that elusive win against a (mostly) healthy, elite playoff opponent, thereby partly convincing fans, the media, and players that the team has not suffered a step back while the rest of the West got better.
The Dubs roll into Staples after suffering their most humiliating loss of the season in the same building, a 115-105 defeat to the Lakers on Tuesday. (Can we stop for a second and appreciate what a gift that was to Kobe haters?). But other than that blip, the Dubs have done a fairly convincing impression of the '86 Celtics for most of the season. They are fifth in the league in points scored per 100 possessions, and first in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions. Clipper Steve may not think the Warriors current run is sustainable, and certainly some recent developments point in that direction. Shaft villain and Clipper nemesis Mo Speights can't be Wilt Chamberlain for an entire season (his PER is 22.6 right now, better than LaMarcus Aldridge), and teams will adjust to Kerr's new offensive sets as the season wears on. But I've been terrified of this roster since the preseason (I picked them or OKC as the Clippers opponents in the Western Conference finals), and even if there will be inevitable dips in the team's three point shooting, they are still loaded.
The real threat to derail the Warriors title aspirations? The health of part-time Warriors center and full-time osteoporosis patient Andrew Bogut. As any Clippers fan who watched the playoff series last year can attest, the Warriors are simply not as dominant--offensively or defensively--without Bogut lumbering through the paint like an Australian version of Sloth from Goonies. Right now there's some turmoil in the Warriors frontcourt, with Kerr trying to reintegrate power forward David Lee into the rotation and Festus Ezeli spraining his ankle in Tuesday's loss. Let's hope the Clipper bigs can exploit that.
- Comparison of Key Metrics: One thing hasn't changed since Steve Kerr took over from Mark Jackson--the Dubs still have trouble keeping the ball in their possession. Golden State averages 16 turnovers a game, good for fifth worse in the league (although part of that is sheer pace). By contrast, the Clips average 12.5 turnovers per game, good for seventh best in the league.
- A Festus-vus for DJ: Coming off a 20-rebound performance against Atlanta, DeAndre yet again finds himself matched up against an undersized frontcourt lacking great athletes. Without Bogut and with Festus Ezeli at least hampered by an ankle injury, expect lots of those beautiful offensive rebound back-taps from Jordan.
- The Fatigue Factor: The Clippers play their fifth game in seven days, and first after that brutal four-game five-night stretch in which the starters logged heavy minutes. Doc chose not to rest his starters during that stretch.
- The War for L.A.'s Celebrity Fan Base: With the Lakers exiled to Chicago, you can expect a decent turnout from the TMZ crowd tonight, especially as studio executives push their stars to promote holiday films. Who can the Clippers poach from the Dyan Cannon cheering squad tonight? A Leo maybe? A Denzel? You'll be able to spot James Franco and Seth Rogen easily enough, as no one will be sitting in a five mile radius of them.
- Connections: Alvin Gentry was apparently the Clippers offensive mastermind before joining the Dubs. Shaun Livingston's afro will always and forever be a Clipper. Jamal dropped 50 while a Warrior, and Mo Speights has been involved in some Clipper-related altercation for four seasons running.
- Wikipedia Entry: "Dub poetry" is a West Indian performance art involving spoken word over reggae rhythms. It would also be great nickname for the Warriors offense, or David Lee's collection of sonnets.