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Clippers vs. Warriors Preview: Can the Clippers Conquer the Warriors Sans Steph?

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After a fantastic win over the Bucks, the Clippers now take on the mighty Warriors at Staples Center.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 7:30 PM PT

How to Watch/Listen: NBA TV, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio

Projected Starting Lineups:

Warriors: Quinn Cook-Klay Thompson-Kevin Durant-Draymond Green-Damian Jones

Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-Pat Beverley-Tobias Harris-Danilo Gallinari-Marcin Gortat

Injuries:

Warriors: Steph Curry Out (Groin), DeMarcus Cousins Out (Achilles), Shaun Livingston Questionable (Foot), Draymond Green Questionable (Toe)

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Questionable (Knee), Avery Bradley Questionable (Ankle)

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are coming off an emotional, impressive win against the Bucks on Saturday afternoon. They dug deep to hold out against one of the NBA’s better teams in overtime, ultimately triumphing on an incredible Lou Williams floater. However, while the game was the best the Clippers have played all season, they were only demonstrating things that they’ve already shown this season, just at a higher level. Hold off a furious opposing run and hang in even when momentum is against them? Check. Hit big shots down the stretch of games? Absolutely. Keep trusting each other when the going is tough? Yep. The game was a distillation of what has made the Clippers so fun to watch this year: an explosive, dangerous bench, all-out effort up and down the roster, and a refusal to ever give up. The Clippers of prior years almost certainly would have lost that game in overtime, possibly even in the 3rd quarter when the Bucks made their run. But not this season’s Clippers.

The Antagonist:

The Warriors remain the best team in the NBA. They boast an 11-2 record despite having some minor injury issues early, and are playing with the same joy and audacity that they displayed in their record-setting 2015-2016 campaign. Steph Curry, although out tonight, is having a ridiculous season, while Durant looks more comfortable than he ever has a Warrior. Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson are having “down” starts to their seasons, and it hasn’t really mattered because Durant and Curry are so good. Meanwhile, the Warriors are also getting solid contributions from less heralded players like Alfonso Mckinnie, Quinn Cook, and Kevon Looney. They remain as terrifying as ever, though with Curry out, and potentially Draymond and Livingston as well, this should be a game that the Clippers can win if they are on their A-game.

Notes:

Guarding KD: Kevin Durant is one of the toughest players to guard in the history of the NBA (yes, history). The Clippers have one of the better KD defenders in the NBA with Luc Mbah a Moute, but he’s questionable to play. If he’s out, Durant will assuredly see a variety of defenders. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Ty Wallace might all get shots, though I think Montrezl Harrell is an underrated candidate to get some time on him. The next question is whether the Clippers will double Durant, especially when he gets the ball in the post. If the Warriors don’t have much else shooting on the floor (read: when Klay is out), it might be a wise strategy, though Cook and Mckinnie can burn doubles too. If Luc does play, I’d be intrigued to see Doc start with a small Gallo-at-center lineup with Luc and Harris on the wings.

Who will start at center: After sitting out the previous three games completely, Marcin Gortat started against the Bucks to matchup with Brook Lopez. He played well in the first half before falling off a cliff in the second, and didn’t play again after he sat in the mid-3rd quarter. Meanwhile, Boban only came in for the final possession after starting the last three games. The Warriors’ centers are all traditional, with none being three-point shooters. However, all of them are young and athletic, and could therefore pose some challenges for Gortat or Boban. I think Boban might get the start again, but the bulk of the minutes will go to Harrell or small-ball lineups with Gallinari at center.

Filling out the rotation: After getting minutes for a handful of games, Milos Teodosic didn’t play at all against the Bucks, nor did Jerome Robinson, who’d also played for the previous few games. Instead, Ty Wallace got his first real rotation minutes of the season, and Sindarius Thornwell made his first appearance, period. Both played well, with Ty’s energy, length, and ability to get to the basket showing off particularly well. Ty is good, and while his lack of shooting can be a detriment, the positive elements he brings outweighs that weakness. If Bradley and Luc play, he probably won’t get playing time, but if one of them doesn’t, I think he should see the spare guard/wing minutes over the other options.

Check out Golden State of Mind for the Warriors’ prospective, and stay tuned for injury updates for both sides.