Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
When: 7:30 p.m. PST
How to watch: TNT, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Projected Starting Lineups:
LA Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, JaMychal Green
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut
The Big Picture:
This is it. We are officially in must-win territory for the LA Clippers, whose season will come to an end unless they win on the road against the two-time defending champions.
The Clippers have looked the part of the 8-seed in this series. They played fairly well in Game 1, but still lost relatively handily. Game 2 seemed to be headed for another disaster until LA executed the greatest postseason comeback in NBA history after being down 31 points. The Warriors responded by taking control of Game 3 from the get-go. The Clippers made some adjustments for Game 4 and upped their defensive intensity to make it a competitive affair, but they still find themselves down 3-1, on the wrong end of a potential gentleman’s sweep.
Nevertheless, LA has plenty to build on from its Game 4 performance. The insertion of JaMychal Green into the starting lineup gave the team an additional offensive threat, helping to space the floor for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s forays into the paint. The Clippers’ defense also wasn’t too compromised, although an inability to clean the defensive glass was one of the team’s primary shortcomings. LA was out-rebounded 49-33 in the last contest, and Golden State is literally the last team in the league to give extra shot opportunities to. The Clippers also held Curry relatively in check, although Thompson got off for the first time in the series. That’s an unfortunate reality of playing the Warriors — no matter how many players have off nights, there are always more waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.
What to watch for:
- The aggression of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: SGA had arguably the best game of his professional career Sunday, and he will have to bring the same level of intensity to start in order for the Clippers to avoid falling into an early hole. With Danilo Gallinari in a slump, Shai is the only offensive creator in the first unit. He showed fearlessness attacking the basket, even with Andrew Bogut as a deterrent, and equal levels of moxie sizing up the Warriors backcourt and draining midrange jumpers in the last game. That type of offensive production, along with the renewed defensive effort he displayed, will help set the tone for the Clippers in Golden State.
- How will Lou and Trez adjust? LA’s bread and butter bench combination of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell was simply not good enough in the two games in Los Angeles. Whether it was due to defensive adjustments made by the Warriors or an unwillingness to take what the defense was giving, the pick-and-roll combination — and by extension, the Clippers second unit — was ineffective and unproductive. Williams needs to be a more willing passer if his shot isn’t falling, and he has to read the traps more quickly. Harrell’s game is dependent on Williams getting the ball to him, but he also has to do a better job of securing rebounds and protecting the paint. Kevon Looney has owned the matchup between the two over the last two games, and that has to reverse for LA to have a chance. If the Clippers can’t win the minutes when Kevin Durant and Curry are both off the floor, then this will get out of hand early.
- Minutes for Green and Garrett Temple: With Ivica Zubac essentially out of the lineup, the Clippers should stick to a three-man big rotation of Gallinari, Green, and Harrell. Wilson Chandler has been too slow on defense and provides limited value when his three-point jumper isn’t falling; he should cede his backup power forward minutes to a combination of Green (who only played 22 minutes Sunday) and Gallinari. Similarly, Temple, though an offensive liability thus far, has played strong defense and deserves an opportunity to be on the floor more. He has averaged 11 minutes per game this series despite being the only real wing-sized player on the roster.
- More Jerome Robinson? Robinson surprised even his more ardent supporters with a strong stint in the last game, showing off some hithertoo unseen pick-and-roll chops along with better-than-expected defense. Doc Rivers loves to roll deep with this team, meaning Robinson could be the beneficiary of an extended rotation once again. Here’s hoping he’s more of a chucker this time around — those threes are there for the taking.
Check back later for the game thread, and head over to Golden State of Mind for the opposing perspective. Go Clippers!