The Big Picture
Fresh off of an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Pacers for the second time in a week, the Clippers now face their toughest test of the young season. The Warriors make their first pilgrimage of the year to the Clippers’ version of Staples Center tonight.
The Clips salvaged what was looking like a rotten road trip by impressively winning back to back games in Cleveland and New Orleans late last week. Unfortunately, the loss to Indiana immediately flushed all those good vibes right back down the toilet. They’re still a healthy 10 games over .500, but the Dubs have opened up an early 2.5 game lead already.
Few really tabbed the Clippers as a candidate to steal the Pacific from Golden State, so there’s no shame in ceding the No. 1 seed in the conference if that’s what eventually happens. Winning the division would be nice, but nabbing the No. 2 seed would be the next best thing for a variety of reasons.
Outside of literally being the next best thing, snagging that second seed would keep the Warriors away until the Conference Finals, assuming each team is able to get that far. Some may feel that that would just be prolonging the inevitable, but those people probably missed the Finals last season. In case you were one of them, the mighty Warriors blew a 3-1 lead and lost in seven games to the Cavs. Pretty wild stuff.
While the Rockets are fun and plucky, the two seed may come down to the Clippers or Spurs. These aren’t the same amazing Spurs we’ve seen in years past, but they’re still off to a 18-4 start on the shoulders of an insane 12-0 record on the road. LAC has matched up well with them over the last couple of years, but it’s imperative for the Clips to overtake them in the standings at some point this season.
The loss to the Pacers aside, the schedule sets up pretty favorably for LAC around this game with GSW. They’ve had two days to rest and prepare since Sunday, and then don’t have to play again until Saturday when the Pelicans come to town. They can leave it all on the floor in what would be a statement victory if they’re able to pull it off.
The Warriors obviously need no introduction. This isn’t the Nuggets or some nondescript NBA also-ran. The Dubs have lost just thrice all year to this point, and two of those defeats came in the first nine games of the year. The recent double overtime defeat at home to Houston snapped a 12-game win streak, though they’ve rebounded with back-to-back wins since.
They’re coming into this game fresh off of roasting the Pacers by 36 points. As you know by now, Klay Thompson had one of those games he’ll have every so often, dumping in 60 points in just 29 minutes of work. Not too shabby.
The Clippers were a tough test for Golden State at times last season, but still managed to get swept over the course of their four regular season meetings.
This will be a fascinating game to watch, as we’ll have the league’s top-ranked offense going up against the league’s stingiest defense. Golden State has been held under 100 points just once all year (against the Lakers), while L.A. comes into this game as the only team with a defensive rating under 100.
This obviously isn’t breaking news, but this will be the true test of whether the Clipper defense is truly the league’s best. Steve Kerr is good about staggering his lineups, and at least one of the big four will be out there at all times.
That will also test the revamped LAC bench. The reserves have been plenty up-and-down so far this season, and it’ll be interesting to see how Doc Rivers approaches minutes for his bench bunch. The best way for Doc to combat GSW’s staggering would seem to be staggering lineups of his own, but he’s been inconsistent with that so far this season.
One would imagine the Clips will approach Golden State’s starting five fairly straight-up from a man-to-man standpoint. CP3 should take Steph Curry, J.J. Redick will take Klay, Luc will be tasked with trying to slow K.D. and Blake Griffin will try and stick with Draymond Green. The Warriors obviously try and create crossmatches with all of their screens and off-ball movement, and the Clippers’ rotations will need to be crisp if they hope to keep up.
The Fancy Table
Game Day Song of Choice
We’re dealing with the Bay Area here, so we have to go with some San Francisco area musicians, of course. Let’s start with AFI who gained fame thanks to a cover of an Offspring song. The cover is better than the original, which is quite embarrassing if you’re The Offspring. Anyway, here’s a newer song from them called Snow Cats:
Journey is an older band, and I’m not really familiar with a ton of their work. I know the hits, and that’s about it. One of those hits is “Don’t Stop Believing”, of course. Here is a video of some genius using a cat puppet to sing that song:
Well that was weird. And amazing.
The Clips will look to establish themselves as a legitimate contender against the league’s top team tonight at 7:30pm PT. Take the singing cat’s advice.