Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: Draymond Green added yet another triple-double to his season-leading total among all NBA players, scoring 18 points on 9 of 14 shooting, pulling down 11 rebounds, and dishing for 10 assists. Green now has the second most triple-doubles in a season by a forward since the 1985-1986 season.
That was … an unexpected finish: Down 16 with 1:40 left in the game, the Clippers would go on the most improbable run, scoring 13 unanswered points largely thanks to late three-point shooting by Pablo Prigioni and C.J. Wilcox. After a timeout that saw Steve Kerr bring the Warriors’ best 5-man lineup back on the floor, Wilcox was able to steal the ball on the inbounds, but his late heave to tie the game and send it to overtime would fall short.
X factor: While Stephen Curry was held to 5-15 shooting, Klay Thompson was able to have his way on the offensive end, scoring 32 points on 11-22 shooting.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 21, 2016
Clippers' 31.3% OREB is their highest in a game this year (notable for a team that strategically deemphasizes it). https://t.co/OHHtPPjXDQ
— Positive Residual (@presidual) February 21, 2016
Check Your Messages
First of all, why everyone always either underwhelmed or overwhelmed? Is anyone ever just whelmed? Why can’t they be? What’s the point of a word that can’t be used without a prefix? I ask this silly question because I need to give myself something to focus on as I write this, or I may break my keyboard. Because when it comes to the initial results of Doc Rivers’ latest trade machine experiment, I am decidedly less than whelmed.
Lance Stephenson, at the time he was traded – along with a first round pick and a pack of Chicken McNuggets – to the Memphis Grizzlies, was playing an average of 15.8 minutes on the season. His half-season tenure with the Clippers was marked by a short leash, a quick hook, and a string of games he didn’t even get to play in. This was despite his energy tending to turn the tide of tough games and his minutes with the starters being the most effective five-man lineups to start in the handful of games he had the opportunity.
Meanwhile, in Jeff Green’s first game with Los Angeles, he played almost 20 minutes, during which time he only scored 5 points, accumulated more turnovers than assists (3-1), and more personal fouls than rebounds (3-2). This was all while being mostly out-of-position on defense, passing lazily on offense, and unnecessarily racking up more ill-advised post-ups on Andre Iguodala in one game than he’s had all year (10 in the game, 58 for the rest of the season – that’s in 63 games, which is 0.92 per game. This is not a coincidence. He’s shooting 37.3% on post-ups this season.). These are all mistakes that would earn Lance Stephenson a spot on the pine for most of the games he played in.
So what’s up, Doc? You do know it’s not 2008 anymore, right? It’s only one game in, so I’m willing to give Green a little more rope for the time being. But at some point, you’re going to have to let go of the past and start reading scouting reports from this year if you want to make trades. Right now, it doesn’t look like Jeff Green is the answer.
Big Bang Looming
From the beginning, middle, and towards the end of this game, my biggest takeaway was DeAndre Jordan looking like an endangered species. The struggle and frustration on his face, in his deep breaths, and in his movements was so telling.
Oooh weee, did the Warriors toy with him tonight. Inside, outside, transition and out of bounds. It was uncomfortable to watch DJ get picked apart mercilessly. Golden State gave him theoretical Hassan Whiteside treatment: The numbers were there for Jordan, but the numbers were really there for Warriors involved in offensive plays in his coverage.
And this is with the Clippers playing their brand of small ball. Which begged a question I posed to DeAndre: What happens when Blake Griffin gets back?
“It’s going to be interesting when Blake gets back,” Jordan said. “We’re probably going to have to play smaller … and adjust.”
That’s a hard truth coming from DJ after a game like this. Unless Griffin is ready to go on March 23 (4.5 weeks), we won’t know until the postseason – if the Clippers make it far enough to see Golden State there.
The Familiar Dilemma
The obvious and clear problem with playing Golden State — which all teams must deal with — is trying to plug every hole in your defense. If you rotate over on a shooter, they keep swinging it just as quickly. If you close off a passing lane, they just slip backdoor. It’s a daunting task for any defense and while the Clippers didn’t play a flawless game, they encountered plenty opportunities to level the score and forge ahead. The Warriors are deep, can shoot from almost every position on the floor, and at every second of the game employ lineups where passing is a fundamental advantage. This is probably why it usually takes a near foolproof approach to knock them off. Anything less and you’re gambling Golden State beats themselves (they don’t).
Just a glance at the stat sheet reveals all the requisite boxes for a Warrior win are checked: out-shot (surprise) and out-assisted their opponent. For good measure, Golden State also turned what felt like every Clipper turnover into a swift basket (flipped 14 Clipper turnovers into 21 points) — another Warrior hallmark. As well as DeAndre Jordan played (his line reads like a video-game with 16 and 21 along with 2 blocks and 2 steals), he routinely found himself on the wrong end of defensive matchups. With Golden State perpetually switching at every pick-and-roll opportunity, the Warriors exposed Jordan at the top of the key in situations rendering him powerless to contest perimeter bombs.
The Warriors make a living on these switches and yet it’s extremely difficult to counter unless you can have a Draymond Green-type of your own capable of banging down low and still going chest-to-chest 20-feet out. Without someone to force the issue at the rim (like a Blake Griffin), the Clippers offense eventually warped into a strictly perimeter affair, allowing the Warriors to gallop to the other end and leisurely pick out it’s shooters.