The Back Story (The Warriors lead the season series 2-1):
|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|
The Big Picture:
Every team has games that stick in their craw over the course of a season, losses that stand out for one reason or another. Maybe the team didn't play well, maybe they were just unlucky, but some losses just hurt more. The Clippers have exorcised most of those demons this season. After being upset by the Lakers in the first game of the season, the Clippers have since beaten the Lakers twice, by a combined 84 points. Likewise they've twice avenged their worst home loss to the Phoenix Suns, and generally offered some level of payback to the teams they feel they owe (Cleveland will get theirs next week). Golden State is an exception however. On Christmas Day the Clippers more or less outplayed the Warriors in Oakland, but some underhanded tactics from the Warriors and inexplicable decisions by the officiating crew left the Clippers without the services of Blake Griffin for most of the final period, and the Clippers lost by a basket. In the next meeting after that one, the Clippers were playing without Paul on the road on the second night of a back to back, and understandably came out flat. So the Clippers are still looking to avenge that Christmas Day loss. Griffin is coming off one of the most dominant performances of his career and will have as much motivation as he's had all season. I'd say the smart money is on the Clippers in this game, even without their top two shooting guards (J.J. Redick is definitely out, Jamal Crawford will be a game time decision). The Clippers are on an eight game winning streak and after tonight they have six straight games against teams below .500. In other words, a win over the Warriors could be the gateway to a very nice winning streak.
The Warriors can be a difficult team to figure. They are best known as the team of the Splash Brothers, the deadly three point shooting tandem of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but in fact they win with their defense, which is now the highest ranked defense in the Western Conference given Oklahoma City's recent struggles. They reeled off ten straight wins in December and January, but then lost nine of their next 16. But since the All Star break they've caught fire again, going 10-2 (the Clippers are 8-2 since the break). Like the Clippers the last time these teams met, the Warriors are playing their second game in two nights, but the good news is that they barely broke a sweat in defeating the Mavericks in Oakland. No one on the team logged more than 30 minutes, and Curry, slowed by a sore quadriceps muscle, was only needed for 22. Their recent run has left the Warriors breathing down the necks of the slumping Portland Trail Blazers, with Golden State just a game and a half out of fifth place in the West, two in the loss column. As of the All Star break, it wasn't even clear that the Warriors would be safely in the playoffs as the Grizzlies looked to displace one of the 6 through 8 teams; at this point, it's safe to say it won't be Golden State missing the postseason. How Curry will feel on the second game of a back-to-back (and how much his quad had to do with his sub-par 4-12 shooting night) remains to be seen -- Curry has been a Clipper killer ever since entering the NBA, and if he is limited it will improve LA's chances significantly.
- Comparison of key metrics. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, you might expect the Warriors to be an offense-first team. However, it is their defense that is highly rated this season (3rd in the NBA, first in the West) while their offense is barely better than league average. The Clippers offense is second only to Miami in the entire league. So yeah, it's the best offense in the West versus the best defense in the West.
- The Pacific Division race. The Warriors had won seven straight games when Chris Paul was injured. In the first week of January they caught the Clippers in the standings, and with the Clippers hurting and the Warriors streaking, it seemed inevitable that Golden State would take over first place in the Pacific during CP3's absence. Those fears turned out to be overblown, and the Clippers have maintained a safe lead in the Division through all of their injuries. The lead currently stands at four games, and the Dubs probably have some delusions of closing the gap, which would obviously start with a win tonight which would also give them the season series tie-breaker -- but even with a win in this game, it's highly unlikely Golden State can chase down the Clippers. In fact, it looks like the Warriors are who we thought they were -- a dangerous team, capable of getting hot and beating anyone, but nonetheless flawed. Still, they could give someone trouble in the postseason.
- The 6,000, 3,000, 1,000 club. Barring something strange, tonight Blake Griffin will become the third player in NBA history to score 6,000 points, grab 3,000 rebounds and hand out 1,000 assists while shooting 50% from the field before the end of his fourth season in the NBA. Griffin currently has 2,995 career rebounds, so he needs five more to join Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley in a very exclusive club.
- Draymond Green and P.J. Tucker and... Green, Tucker, Andrew Bogut, David West, Serge Ibaka, Sam Dalembert. Seems like everyone wants a piece of Blake Griffin these days. Tucker received a one-game suspension for his elbow to Griffin's face in addition to being ejected from Monday night's Clippers-Suns game. One assumes that the Warriors won't try any shenanigans given how closely the refs will likely be watching them tonight, but one never really knows with Mark Jackson's team. Plus, Bogut's a douche.
- Bogut: Austrailian for douche. Andrew Bogut has gotten into altercations with a few people this season, including DeAndre Jordan in the first meeting between these two teams and of course Blake Griffin in the second. Was Bogut targeting Griffin when Griffin was assessed a second technical foul and ejected? Call it what you will, he was clearly being physical (he's a physical player) and it was not an isolated incident. Most replays of the tangle between Bogut and Griffin start with the high elbow that led directly to the incident. But watch below for Bogut's arms at the start of this replay; he made contact with Griffin's head during a 'box out' before Griffin's offensive rebound (around the 10:49 mark on the game clock). Basically, Bogut got his arms up above Griffin's shoulders and made contract twice in the course of about six seconds. This is not how you box out, FYI. This is how you pick a fight.
- Curry and the Clippers. In his last six games against the Clippers, Steph Curry has games of 38, 28, 31 and 22. In those four games, he has posted effective field goal percentages of .804, .857, .875 and 1.054. Curry's a great shooter, I get that, but those numbers are absolutely ridiculous. His eFG on the season is .552 which is around his career eFG of .549 -- which is really good, but you can see how crazy multiple games shooting over .800 is. I'm not sure how you stop Curry when he's in that zone -- you have to just hope he's not that guy tonight. When Curry is mortal, the Warriors are vulnerable, but he's rarely been mortal against the Clippers.
- More Curry v. the Clippers. On his career, Curry has made 56-111 three pointers against the Clippers -- better than 50%. On threes. On a lot of threes. He is one of two active NBA players and eight players all time to shoot better than 50% on over 100 threes against a single opponent. Ben Gordon is the other active player (though maybe he's not active anymore). Gordon is 72-135 against the Wizards.
- Curry's quad. The Warriors have announced that Curry has a strained quad, but are continuing to play him. His minutes are being monitored, but not necessarily limited. He only played 22 against the Mavs last night, but they probably had more to do with the fact that the Warriors had a big lead most of the night and Jordan Crawford was hot. Curry played 30 minutes Sunday night against the Suns. He's in a bit of a scoring slump, not topping 20 in the last five games, but then again all five of those were wins. Besides, this is the Clippers, so just assume that he'll be ridiculous.
- A rivalry is born. We seem to say this about a lot of teams, but the Clippers and Warriors really don't like each other -- and that was BEFORE the Christmas Day shenanigans. There were quite a few blowouts in the season series last year, and emotions seem to run high. Whether it's Steph Curry doing his dance, Blake Griffin and David Lee going at it, DeAndre Jordan and Andrew Bogut exchanging shoves under the basket, Mark Jackson accusing Blake Griffin of intentionally bumping him or random Warriors picking random fights with Griffin, there's always something going on when these teams get together. I would assume that there will be at least one flagrant foul and one technical foul in this game. I would also assume that the officiating crew will have everyone, especially the Warriors, on a very short leash after what happened last time and what happened Monday night in STAPLES Center.
- Mark Jackson. The Warriors sometimes bizarre head coach Mark Jackson definitely contributes to the bad blood between the teams, though of course he says there is no bad blood, no rivalry, that it's just two teams competing. Yeah, right. Last season during a blowout in L.A. Jackson spent an entire timeout staring at the Clippers bench rather than, you know, trying to help his team play better. I can only surmise that he didn't like some celebrating that had been going on from the LAC bench, yet strangely I've never seen him tell his bench to dial back the towel-waving. Earlier this season Jackson accused Blake Griffin of intentionally stepping on him when Jackson got in the way on an inbounds play. And if indeed the Warriors targeted Griffin on Christmas to try to get him tossed as it appears on the surface, it certainly came from the top down. Jackson can't seem to help inserting himself front and center in games.
- Missing go to options. The Clippers have struggled to hold onto late leads in three of their last four wins. Of course, they are missing two of the guys who would be on the floor at the end of games, and two of their best options when they really need a basket. With Crawford and Redick currently out of action, defenses are loading up on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin down the stretch and taking their chances with the other guys. That's to be expected, but the strategy wouldn't work nearly as well with a second creator in Crawford on the floor and the deadly spot up shooting of Redick. Until they return, the Clippers will just have to keep grinding out wins.
- Closing out shooters. It goes without saying that you have to close out on Curry and Thompson. Actually, that's not correct, because closing out implies that you left them at some point, which you can't do. Curry set the all time NBA single-season record with 272 three pointers last season and he has the fourth highest career three point percentage in NBA history (.437). Thompson was third in the NBA last season in three pointers made with 211, and is .406 for his career. Curry is first and Thompson is third in three point attempts and makes this season.
- Warriors bench. The Golden State bench is better than it was at the start of the season. Jordan Crawford provides a backcourt scoring option they were missing and the trade deadline acquisition of Steve Blake from the Lakers gives them a backup point they desperately needed. If Jermaine O'Neal can hold up (a big if) the Warriors bench will not be a huge liability in the playoffs. Of course, the Clippers bench is much better as well with the February additions of buyout bigs Glen Davis and Danny Granger, not to mention Hedo Turkoglu.
- Granger. Danny Granger had 14 points Monday night in his fourth game as a Clipper, just two points shy of his season-high. His jump shot looked great in the first half, but went a bit flat in the second, perhaps the result of some fatigue. If (or when) he gets his legs under him he will be a significant addition to the Clippers. Doc Rivers appears to be interested in potentially using Granger both as starting three and as his preferred small ball four.
- 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.
- Shakespearean reference:
Othello -- Act III, Scene 4 -- Desdemona
Something, sure, of state,
Either from Venice, or some unhatch'd practise
Made demonstrable here in Cyprus to him,
Hath puddled his clear spirit: and in such cases
Men's natures wrangle with inferior things,
Though great ones are their object. 'Tis even so;
For let our finger ache, and it indues
Our other healthful members even to that sense
Of pain: nay, we must think men are not gods,
Nor of them look for such observances
As fit the bridal. Beshrew me much, Emilia,
I was, unhandsome warrior as I am,
Arraigning his unkindness with my soul;
But now I find I had suborn'd the witness,
And he's indicted falsely.