Maybe a two? Look, nothing against the Clippers, but this Warriors roster could very well be the most talented starting five to ever play for an NBA team. It’s not much of a stretch to say that all five of our starters right now are likely to end up in the Hall of Fame (Editor’s Note: I’d quibble against DeMarcus Cousins, but there’s an argument there). The Clippers...aren’t that. No matter what, I’d call this season a tremendous success for Los Angeles because it feels like you’ve finally found a post Lob City identity that works.
But against the champs? A team chasing their third consecutive title while knowing that this could very well be our last best shot at being the favorites? Nah, I’m not too worried about the Warriors losing the series.
2. What do you think will be the primary matchup that the Warriors exploit (if there is one)?
Durant, without question; and to a lesser extent DeMarcus Cousins.
Like a lot of NBA teams, the Clippers don’t have many players that can cover all (or even most) of the threats that Kevin Durant presents. Gallo is going to struggle keeping up with the speed of Durant, and Harrell seems more likely to slot in as a four or five rather than matchup directly against Durant. I saw in your site’s preview that Beverley’s name came up as an option which... doesn’t seem like a great idea from the outside, but is telling in regards to how limited the viable options are here.
Durant has been on a tear recently, turning in some of the most efficient offensive basketball of his career. A short player like Beverley may cause some ball handling issues, but it would concede the over-the-top passes and basically any jump shot that Durant wants to take.
In my experience, teams tend to prioritize taking away Steph Curry (and he’s still been able to mostly run all over the Clippers this season anyways), which frees up more opportunities for Durant to shine. Unless the Clippers can figure out some ways to slow Durant, I expect him to lean way into this matchup and drive us to victory.
3. No matter how unlikely a Clippers’ series victory is (read: very), what do you think their best/most realistic path to a series win would be?
Foul trouble. The Clippers are one of the best teams at drawing fouls and it wouldn’t take much to get our hot-headed, foul prone team into trouble. DeMarcus Cousins, Durant, and Draymond Green are all guys who “play with emotion” (which means they tend to freak TF out). We cannot allow the refs to control the emotion of this series. It’s a design feature of our offense that the Warriors don’t play in such a way to draw many fouls - due to an emphasis on off-ball movement rather than one-on-one dribbling to break down the defense. However, tensions between Golden State and the refs has amplified recently. With frustrations growing on both sides, it’s really not that much of a stretch to imagine foul trouble leading to excess free throws, which would further feed into our players’ frustration... you’ve seen Draymond Green enough to know how that could end badly for us.
And also, it’s not nearly as interesting to talk about, but to me, the realest path to a Clippers victory would involve some sort of injury to the Warriors. Curry is recovered (mostly) from a recent ankle tweak, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous about him getting knocked around by Beverley’s brand of overly physical defense.
4. What’s something about the Warriors that an average Clippers’ fan (or media member) might not know or realize?
Those tensions we’ve been hearing about all season are overblown. You saw the Durant/Green kerfuffle first hand, and things were admittedly awkward for a month or so after that all went down. But this is a team that’s unified in their chase of history. Cousins has never even played in a playoff game, and everyone else knows exactly how ephemeral this whole roster construction is right now. Shaun Livingston is almost certainly in his last season as a Warrior - as is DeMarcus Cousins... and that’s not even getting into the looming uncertainty of what Durant and Klay Thompson’s upcoming free agency will mean moving forward. Even if we re-sign both of those guys, it pegs us into a set roster with three max contract guys and a depleted bench.
So basically, I just hope that external fanbases can appreciate how good and special this Warriors roster is. Chasing a threepeat is special, and this era of Warriors basketball is something that fans and players will be talking about for the rest of our lives.
5. What’s your overall prediction for the series (number of games played, level of competition, who wins, etc.)?
I’m a cocky fan, infected with the arrogance that has only been reinforced by watching our core dance all over the corpses of some truly great teams. I’m going Warriors in four.
It’s not going to be an easy four, and I expect the Clippers to challenge hard to take one of the first two games at Oracle. But assuming the Dubs manage to hold serve and protect home court, I assume they’ll also waltz into Los Angeles and bust their way out of the first round as quickly as possible. The Clips have had a truly impressive season, but the Warriors know not to mess around in the playoffs (hopefully) and I think that in the end, the talent discrepancy is just too great to overcome.