NBA Playoff Preview: Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Clippers
Season Series: Tied at 2-2
My insanely frustrating Warriors finished with the 6 seed in a difficult Western Conference and are matched up with the red hot Los Angeles Clippers. I will try to be as objective as possible in my prediction of the series since all fans believe their team is going to win. I mean I am a product of the ‘We Believe’ 06-07 Warriors who beat a heavily favored Dallas Mavericks team. We might as well address the biggest story for the series which is the injury to Andrew Bogut. He will most likely be out this entire series, which puts the Warriors in a huge hole. He has been an elite rim protector for the team and with David Lee out, the Warriors small ball line-up has been deadly.
Now with him out indefinitely, all rim protection responsibilities fall onto the shoulders of Jermaine O’Neal and … no one else. Festus Ezeli has been out all year due to injury which left only Bogut and Jermaine to protect the rim with any success. More minutes for Jermaine as the only healthy rim protector does not bode well for the Warriors. We may see David Lee play a significant amount of center this series which means the Warriors will not be able to stop anyone. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin will have a field day in the paint and with Chris Paul’s penetration, the Warriors’ surprisingly solid defense (3rd in defensive efficiency) is in trouble.
This doesn’t mean the Warriors are completely out of it because like any jump-shooting team they could get hot for four games and shock the world. It is possible that we could get two amazing Steph Curry performances and a 40-point game from Klay and the Warriors could be staring at a 3-2 lead.
Wishing for a 40-point game from a player just to have a chance usually doesn’t go well for a team. Not to mention Chris Paul will be the best player on the floor. Paul always kicks it into overdrive come playoff time and has single-handedly given teams fits. All 2011 Lakers fans are nodding their heads right now. Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson need to put in an elite defensive effort against him. In the end Blake Griffin will most likely be the difference maker. He has feasted on the Warriors even with Bogut in the paint. Now that Bogut is out, he may average 35 with 5 dunks a game… I’m scared.
Steph Curry vs Chris Paul
This is a slightly misleading match-up since Steph may spend a total of 3 minutes the entire series guarding Chris Paul. Steph just doesn’t have the strength to have any success guarding the quick and strong CP3. Most likely Klay and Iggy will guard CP3 while CP3 will take it upon himself to guard Steph the entire game. The reason this match-up is so intriguing is because these are the two best players on the floor and each team’s offense goes with them.
Steph has been exceptional all season and is in the conversation for first team all-NBA guard potentially ahead of Chris Paul. As many have seen this season Steph can light it up from anywhere on the floor at any moment in a game. He is going to have to be exceptional for the Warriors to have any chance in this series. Steph needs to do everything he can on offense to tire CP3 out. Its possible that you look at the box score of these two to determine which team won the game.
David Lee vs Blake Griffin
This is maybe the most uneven match-up for the Warriors and will be the most important due to the Andrew Bogut injury. David Lee can’t play defense. If the Warriors want to win he needs to figure out how to. I know this is like asking Jesus to turn water into wine, but without Bogut, the Warriors need a lock down effort from Lee on Griffin. What realistically is going to happen is that Blake is going to feast on Lee. I would expect a lot of this from Blake on David. In previous match-ups the Warriors have cross matched Lee and Bogut, hiding Lee’s poor defense on DeAndre Jordan’s poor offense.
Now Blake will get Lee for the majority of the game. Blake is faster, stronger and more athletic than Lee, and will be able to score on him at will. Like I said before, its possible that Blake could average 35 points a game. The Warriors may try to put Draymond Green on Blake, but Blake will be able to muscle him around with his new impressive low-post game. All in all, the Clippers will get a huge advantage in this match-up which means the Warriors are going to have to make it up elsewhere.
Player to Watch - Harrison Barnes
Barnes, who has been a disappointment for the Warriors this season, will get his chance at redemption. With Bogut going out, Barnes may see a lot more minutes as a stretch four. He excelled in last year’s playoffs playing the position and this may be the spark he needs to get that form back. It doesn’t look promising since Draymond has been starting at power forward during David Lee’s injury. This makes me think Mark Jackson has little to no confidence in Barnes. However, if the Warriors can get 80% of what they got out of Barnes in last year’s playoffs, then this is a completely different series. He is really the x-factor for the Warriors and has the potential to swing the series in the Warriors’ favour.
Prediction: Clippers in 6
This may be a little generous to the Warriors, but the homer that I am, can’t see them only winning one game. The injury to Bogut is too big of a blow for the Warriors to overcome and Barnes doesn’t show any signs of his play from last year’s playoffs. D lee gets destroyed by Blake Griffin all series and the Warriors steal two games based on the Splash bros combining for 65+ in both games. In the end, the Warriors can’t overcome the Clippers’ talent, and will find themselves eliminated in the first round and possibly looking for a new head coach.