Los Angles Clippers at Golden State Warriors
7:30 p.m. PST
December 25, 2013
1. How do you contain the Curry-Thompson combination?
Jack Winter, Warriors World, (@ArmstrongWinter): Run them off the three-point line. That’s a feat far easier said than done, of course, and each Splash Brother is entirely capable of side-stepping or shot-faking an extra aggressive closeout to get an even better look from beyond the arc. But Curry and Thompson – despite subtle improvement this season – could stand major improvement as off-dribble finishers, and pull-up two-point attempts are always a far better proposition than catch-and-shoot three-point tries. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Hound, hound, hound. Recover, recover, recover. If the Clippers can achieve that discipline consistently, life will be far more difficult for Curry and Thompson.
Jacob Frankel, (@jacob_frankel): Curry should be double teamed. Not many others on the team can create, so get the ball out of his hands. Thompson needs to be run off the three point line and force him to attempt a drive or midrange shot, both places where he isn’t so good.
Aaron Fischman, (@Aaronhartf): Defend the perimeter (they combine for 15 three-point attempts per game) and keep pressure on Curry in the frontcourt, taking advantage of his propensity to force the action (i.e. aiming to create turnovers). He averages 5.9 turnovers in losses, but just 2.9 in wins. And stifling Thompson’s shot should be crucial. Curry will typically get his no matter what you do, whereas the numbers suggest Thompson’s shot has been disrupted in Golden State’s losses.
2. Why have the Warriors struggled more than anticipated out of the gate this season?
Winter: A lack of depth exacerbated by injuries. The acquisition of Andre Iguodala – who’s a brilliant fit in the Bay, by the way – came at a price for the Warriors this summer. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, glaring flaws not withstanding, were an integral part of Golden State’s renaissance last season. Bob Myers let them walk in free agency to gain enough cap space to add Iguodala while staying below the luxury tax line, and Mark Jackson’s bench was depleted as a result. The idea was sound: a player as versatile as Iguodala is worth more than mere numbers suggest, and Harrison Barnes would serve as the rising young linchpin of a revamped reserve corps. But injuries – predictably? – have made the adjustment more difficult than most anticipated. When healthy, Golden State’s been close to great this season. The question is whether or not the Warriors will be when it matters.
Frankel: They have no offensive creators outside of Curry and Andre Iguodala, and one of those guys has been hurt for a while. The offense is too focused on screen plays for inefficient Klay Thompson midrange jumpers and there isn’t enough four-out pick and roll, the stuff that leads to threes and dunks.
Fischman: While the Warriors’ struggles are exaggerated (they’re 16-13 despite playing the fifth-toughest schedule), they’re only 3-9 against winning teams and commit way too many turnovers. Finishing tight games is another problem. Their +3.4 point differential is the same as the 17-10 Suns’, but Golden State has won just four of 12 games that were decided by five points or fewer or went to overtime.
3. Is Warriors-Clippers a rivalry?
Winter: Yes. A matchup of playoff teams so consistently competitive and fraught with tension certainly deserves that exalted distinction. The Warriors and Clippers are talented, openly dislike like each other, and routinely combine for some of the league’s best basketball. If this isn’t already considered as arguably the West’s best rivalry, it will be soon.
Frankel: I think it is. These teams play often enough that some bad blood can get going, and there’s certainly been some tension in the last few games. The Clippers are a pretty unlikable team in general and playing the Warriors fairly often might just increase the dislike between the two teams.
Fischman: Not yet, as there’s not enough history between these teams. Still, it clearly has the potential to be, given that both should continue to be good for the foreseeable future. The Halloween affair, in which Paul and Curry combined for 80, was epic. And Wednesday night, the best three-point defense will take on the second-best three-point offense. The storylines are there; it’s just not a rivalry yet.