Some basic information on the series and the Warriors:
- The full schedule can be found here: the first game will be on Saturday at 5:00 PM PT on ABC.
- The Warriors went 57-25, their worst record in five seasons
- The Warriors’ defensive rating of 109.5 (points allowed per 100 possessions) was their worst defensive rating relative to league average since the 2012-2013 season
- The Warriors’ offense, however, was the best in the NBA, narrowly edging out the Rockets (114.9 vs 114.8)
- The Clippers had the 9th best offense in the NBA (111.3 ORTG), and the 19th best defense (110.3)
- The Warriors are massive favorites to win the series (initial odds have them at 50:1 I believe)
The season series:
- The season series went to Golden State 3-1, with the Clippers’ lone win coming in the first meeting back in November
- The first game was an infamous contest where Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got in a fight after a questionable decision by Draymond to bring the ball up the court late in the 4th quarter with a chance to win the game, rather than give the ball to KD
- The second game was a competitive loss, with the Warriors just edging out a hot-shooting Clippers team
- The third game was a resounding win for the Warriors, although they were facing the Clippers’ old, pre-trade deadline roster
- The fourth game was a Warriors slaughter, but the Clippers were down Danilo Gallinari, Pat Beverley, and JaMychal Green – three of their top eight players, including their best and fourth best in Gallo and Pat
- Essentially, none of these games can really tell us too much: the Clippers’ roster was vastly different in the first three, and was handicapped in the final one. For the Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins was injured for the first two games, and their team has played somewhat different with him in the lineup
The key matchups:
Pat Beverley vs. Steph Curry:
This is the most important matchup of the series, and it’s not particularly close, in my opinion. Both teams’ point guards are the heart and soul of their team, though they convey this importance in far different ways. Steph Curry is perhaps the most dangerous offensive player in the NBA, the best shooter of all time, and a basketball revolutionary. Pat Beverley is a tough, gritty, trash-talking underdog who can barely sit still, a bulldog in NBA player form.
Steph is going to score. He’s going to hit some backbreaking threes. He’s Steph Curry. Pat Beverley will have to do his best to hound Steph, to make life as difficult as possible for him on offense, to always be in his face. Steph has never been one to necessarily be rattled by physical defense or aggression (with a couple exceptions), but Beverley has to try. He’s been exceptional on defense over the latter half of the season, and if he can even slow Steph down, the Clippers will be much better situated.
Perhaps most importantly, Pat must be aggressive offensively, and make Steph guard him on defense. Pat has shot the ball well this year, and has demonstrated some strong playmaking chops, but has also been passive at times, settling for setting up teammates and fading into the background as a scorer. That can’t happen against the Warriors. The Clippers need as much firepower and scoring as possible, and Pat, as the starting point guard, needs to lead the way. The other crucial element is that making Steph work on defense (he’s actually a solid defender, so the Clips shouldn’t necessarily target him, however) could slow him down at least a bit on offense. And, if the Clippers can somehow get him in foul trouble, all the better.
The Clippers have one of the most potent reserve units in recent memory. Lou Williams is almost certainly going to win his 3rd 6th Man of the Year Award, while Montrezl Harrell has been dubbed the unofficial “7th Man of the Year”. Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green have been great since coming over mid-season, with Temple providing stout perimeter defense and Green chipping in on the glass and spacing the floor. There is a question with the last bench spot in the rotation, as Wilson Chandler has been mostly either bad or invisible since he returned from injury a month ago, while Ty Wallace has lost his rhythm, and Jerome Robinson is unready for rotation minutes, much less playoff minutes against the Warriors. However, the solution for Doc is simple: move to a nine-man rotation, cutting out that final spot entirely.
The Warriors’ bench is not great, but it’s also not as bad as rumor would make it. Kevon Looney and Andrew Bogut are both competent big men, and might in fact be more dangerous to the Clippers than DeMarcus Cousins, as both are far better defenders than Boogie. Quinn Cook is a solid backup point guard who can get hot from three. Shaun Livingston is not what he once was, but remains a solid, steady presence at guard. And Andre Iguodala is one of the most underrated bench players of this era, a do-it-all presence who makes the Warriors’ best lineups click with his passing and defense.
Steve Kerr usually staggers his bench with at least one starter, but has also been prone to weird lineups at times with not enough firepower. While benches are usually less important in the playoffs as coaches play their best players more minutes and depth fades away, the singular strength of the Clippers is their depth and group mentality, and Doc Rivers will stick with that as long as possible. To that end, the Clippers’ bench must do a lot of damage when matched up against their Warriors’ counterparts. That will mean a lot of Lou and Montrezl Harrell pick and rolls, but also stout defense against a Warriors’ unit that can still score. If the Clippers’ bench unit can truly outplay the Warriors’ reserves, the Clippers could keep this series competitive.
Steve Kerr and Doc Rivers are both very good coaches, but I think to some extent this series will be a bit out of their hands. Kerr has the overwhelming talent advantage: all he needs to do is utilize it correctly (which he’s proven he can do), and counterpunch whatever moves Doc makes. To some extent, that puts the onus on Doc. The Clippers are heavily outmatched talent-wise, so Doc will have to go deep into his bag with lineups and strategies that could shake the Warriors. I have a few guesses as to what Doc might try, but more on that will come later. Right now, Doc and the Clippers’ staff will be working furiously to devise a path towards beating the Warriors.
Other stats of note:
- The Clippers have been harmed all year by offensive rebounds (they rank 21st in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage), but fortunately, the Warriors don’t crash the offensive glass much (ranking 25th in offensive rebounding percentage)
- Efficient offenses clash: the Warriors have the highest true shooting % of any team in the NBA by far (59.6%), but the Clippers come in at 57.5%... expect there to be some very high-scoring games in this series
- Pace should be up-tempo: Both teams like to play at a similar speed – fast, but not crazily so. The Clippers ranked 7th in pace this season, the Warriors 10th. Both teams will run up and down the court, with the Warriors being especially deadly in transition. For the Clippers to win, they need to prevent the Warriors from getting out on the break, which means making their shots (which, duh) and eliminating live-ball turnovers
The first game of the playoffs is in less than two days, but there will be plenty of content before then! Stay tuned for more articles, cross-blog collaborations, podcasts, and more.