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NBA Playoffs Round 1 Game 6 Clippers-Warriors preview: A close out game

The Clippers have a chance to close out their first round series tonight in Oakland. It's been a couple of days since Adam Silver banned owner Donald Sterling, and things are closer to normal, which could spell doom for the Warriors.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
2014 NBA Playoffs
First Round

Game 6 - May 1st, 2014, 7:30 PM
TNT, Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Series Schedule
The Clippers lead the series 3-2
Game 1 - Sat April 19 in Los Angeles,  Warriors 109-Clippers 105
Game 2 - Mon April 21 in Los Angeles, Clippers 138-Warriors 98
Game 3 - Thu April 24 in Oakland, Clippers 98-Warriors 96
Game 4 - Sun April 27 in Oakland, Warriors 118-Clippers 97
Game 5  - Tue April 29, in Los Angeles, Clippers 113-Warriors 103
Game 6 - Thu May 1, 7:30 PM, Oakland, ORACLE Arena
Game 7 * Sat May 3, Time TBD, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
* if necessary
Win-Loss Breakdown Regular Season
21-9 East 20-10
36-16 West 31-21
34-7 Home 27-14
23-18 Road 24-17
25-18 .500+ 19-25
32-7 .500- 32-6
7-3 L10 6-4
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Stephen Curry
J.J. Redick SG Klay Thompson
Matt Barnes SF Andre Iguodala
Blake Griffin PF Draymond Green
DeAndre Jordan C David Lee
Key Reserves
Darren Collison PG Steve Blake
Jamal Crawford SG Jordan Crawford
Jared Dudley SF Harrison Barnes
Danny Granger PF Marreese Speights
Glen Davis C Jermaine O'Neal
Advanced Stats 2013-2014 Regular Season
98.39 (7th of 30) Pace 98.53 (6th of 30)
109.4 (1st of 30) ORtg 105.3 (12th of 30)
102.1 (7th of 30) DRtg 99.9 (3rd of 30)
Hedo Turkoglu (back) out
Andrew Bogut (broken rib) out

Festus Ezeli (knee surgery) out

The Back Story (The teams split the regular season series 2-2):

Date Venue Final

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
03/12/14 Los Angeles Clippers 111, Warriors 98 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers took a 3-2 lead in the first round series with the Warriors with their win Tuesday night in Los Angeles. That win came a matter of hours after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to ban Clipper owner Donald Sterling for life and initiate procedures to force a sale of the franchise. But importantly, while the Clippers had more clarity of purpose and energy after that decision, they had gone to bed the night before full of doubt -- for the third night in a row. Coach Doc Rivers felt like his team looked tired on Tuesday, which might explain Blake Griffin's lackluster production through three quarters of that game. Heading into Game 6, the Clippers have an acceptable resolution to the problem with their owner, and a couple of days to adjust to decompress from all the furor: does that mean they'll be at the top of their game? Hopefully.

The Antagonist:

The Warriors have impressed me, there's no question about that. Playing without center Andrew Bogut, and with the Clippers for the most part keeping a lid on any Stephen Curry explosions, the Warriors have nonetheless won two games and been in two more (there were only blown out once, but oh what a blow out it was). Obviously, all of the extenuating circumstances make it difficult to gauge the relatively strengths of the teams based on results. How much weight do you put on the Game 4 and 5 results given the circumstances under which those games were played? Regardless, guys like Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes have been playing well -- about as well as can be expected. If the Warriors can find a way to get Curry out of the handcuffs the Clippers have put in him, they can still win this series.

The Subplots

  • Series preview. Be sure to review the series preview which contains some of the overarching points for the series. I won't repeat those points here.
  • SoCal v. NorCal. The Clippers STAPLES Center roommates, the LA Kings, assured that they'd be using the venue at least a couple of more times this spring with their stunning comeback against the San Jose Sharks. The Kings became just the fourth team in NHL history to comeback from a 0-3 deficit to win a seven game series, and in one-sided wins in Game 6 and 7, really embarrassed the Sharks. And here's the thing -- the Kings and the Sharks don't seem to like each other. Just as the Clippers and the Warriors don't seem to like each other. Go figure.
  • Adam Silver. New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver impressed the socks off me and almost everyone else with his decision on the Sterling affair on Tuesday. He was decisive, he was bold, he answered the questions unflinchingly. He even used his lack of experience on the job to his advantage to deflect questions of why the NBA put up with Sterling for so long. I wasn't commissioner then, we're doing something now. This isn't over of course -- Sterling is unlikely to go away quietly. But Silver's decision seems to have the support of basically everyone except for Donald Sterling.
  • DeAndre. DeAndre Jordan has truly been a part of a Clippers Big Three in this series. Ignoring the distraction derby on Sunday in which he was clearly the Clipper the most adversely affected by the controversy surrounding the team, Jordan has averaged 16 points, 15 rebound and five blocked shots, while shooting close to 70 percent in the other four games. Not surprisingly the Clippers are 3-1 in those games. He's even making enough free throws to keep the Hack-the-DJ strategy off the table (or at least to make Mark Jackson pay when he uses it). The Warriors have had some success with small lineups on offense -- but even if the Clippers don't post DJ against Harrison Barnes (and maybe the should frankly) he's killing them on the glass and dominating the paint in general.
  • Burden lifted. Was the situation weighing on the Clippers players before Tuesday's decision? Of course it was. But don't take my word for it. Chris Paul said of Silver's decision, "It just seemed like a burden lifted off of everybody and we could just get back to basketball and worry about what we needed to worry about."
  • Draymond Green. I don't much care for Draymond Green. For an 'energy' guy, he sure seems to take a lot of shots, and he doesn't make nearly enough of them: his true shooting percentage this season was under 50%, which is really bad. In fact, he's one of just 24 players in the league who posted a TSP below 50% while playing at least 1500 minutes. But this is almost certainly a case where Green would be one of my favorite players if he were a Clipper. He works hard, he never takes a possession off, he defends multiple positions, etc. And there's little question that he's had an impact this series. He has defended Blake Griffin far better than any other Warrior, despite giving away a lot of size. Green has had foul trouble in each of the games he started and he'll probably have more tonight -- let's face it, he's not going to stop Griffin without doing some pushing, and the refs could actually call it more than they have. I wouldn't have thought it was the case coming into the series, but getting Green into foul trouble could be a key to tonight's game.
  • Game 6 stats. In a seven game series in the NBA, the team ahead going into Game 6 has gone on to win the series 225 times against just 37 losses (.859). Their record is even better (42-4 -- .913) in the first round. And when it's the team with home court advantage leading 3-2 (i.e. they will have Game 7 at home) the tam trailing has come back to win the series just once in 25 times. Of course, I quoted a whole bunch of statistics last season when the Clippers were up 2-0 on the Grizzlies, and eventually the Clippers became one of those statistics, in a bad way. There are no guarantees. But historical data strongly favors the Clippers in this situation. Even tonight. In NBA history, the road team has closed out a 3-2 series better than 50% of the time (70-66 -- .515).
  • Looking ahead. We're not supposed to look ahead. Certainly the Clippers themselves aren't supposed to. But it's difficult not to, particularly given the Game 6 stats above. By the time the Clippers tip off in Oakland tonight, their opponent in the next round may already have been determined. Memphis (yes, those Grizzlies) leads Oklahoma City 3-2 with an incredible opportunity to knock the Thunder out of the playoffs in Memphis tonight. That would be a good news/bad news scenario for the Clippers -- the good news being that they'd have home court advantage in a series with the Grizzlies whereas they would not against the Thunder; the bad news being that they'd be facing the dreaded Grizzlies for the third season in a row. Of course, there are no easy playoff series in the West (the last four MEM-OKC games have gone to overtime, which is just amazing) so you definitely take the home court advantage if you can get it. Furthermore, on paper the Clippers probably match up better against the Grizzlies.
  • Containing Curry. Steph Curry has tormented the Clippers during the regular season for as long as he's been in the league, but in this series he's struggled. Aside from 33 in a Game 4 win (that was the distraction derby) and a 20 point third quarter in the Game 2 blowout, Curry has been quite mortal. The Clippers game plan, put simply, is to never give him space -- they switch or blitz all pick and rolls, fight over the top, contest every shot and trap him opportunistically. It has at times resulted in some far too easy baskets for the roll man on blown rotations, but it's hard to take away everything (particularly when help guys want to stay home on the likes of Klay Thompson). On the other hand, while the Dubs have gotten some easy buckets because of the attention being paid to Curry, they've also gotten a bunch of turnovers -- eight from Curry in Game 5 alone, over four per game in the series. Clearly the Clippers want to stick with this.
  • Clippers bench. The Clippers bench has been a bit inconsistent in the series so far. Aside from Game 2, when everyone was great, Danny Granger had 15 in Game 2 compared to three -- on 1-12 shooting -- in the other four games combined. Hedo Turkoglu has had similar results, but he won't even be available tonight as he's still recovering after falling on his back in Game 5. Glen Davis has been pretty steady, if unspectacular -- he's 8-13 in the series, but Griffin and Jordan have been so good that there's not a lot of room for him. But importantly Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison each played well in Game 5 -- for Collison it was his first solid performance of the postseason. If those two can play well again and Davis can remain reliable, the bench should at least be OK. Still, it would be great to get Granger going (he'll play the four tonight) and we'll get our first look at Jared Dudley in meaningful post season with Hedo out.
  • 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.