Los Angeles Clippers (43-26) @ Golden State Warriors (63-7)
7:30 p.m. PST
March 23, 2016
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): If the game is played at a snail’s pace and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson struggle from three while the supporting players are either hurt or unable to take advantage of mismatches, the Golden State Warriors will struggle. The San Antonio Spurs simply copied the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers of last postseason to greater effect. At times, the Warriors simply don’t have enough creators if Curry is struggling, however rare that occasion comes about. It is a real weakness though that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily replicable 4 times in 7 games.
Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU): There are no exposures. The Spurs are the best defensive team in the NBA (something the Warriors were last year), and they benefited from a night where the Splash Brothers combined to miss 17 of 19 three-pointers. I’m sure Oscar was happy to see that, but keep in mind, the Lakers also benefited from a game in which Steph Curry and Klay Thompson missed a combined 17 of 18 three-point attempts. Until you see the Warriors and those elite shooters put a string of losses together, there’s no concern that their off nights are anything more than random occurrences.
Ben Mesirow (@SemNeb): When you look at the depleted tools in the Warriors’ shed, it’s probably a little over the top to say the Spurs exposed a weakness. But Golden State was playing hard, and the Spurs poked at some areas that look a little softer than the rest of the Warriors’ rock-solid carapace. They made use of their size advantage and let Kawhi attack the offensive glass, used a heavy dose of Diaw and almost no Duncan, hassled Steph and Klay into bad nights, and stuck Kawhi on Draymond for long stretches. Because of the Spurs’ unique collection of players their blueprint isn’t exactly easy to replicate, but it was an interesting game from an intellectual perspective.
2. Given that, should the Clippers find any solace in the Warriors vulnerabilities or do they have bigger problems of their own to deal with?
Liu: Their own struggles are concerning but less so given they’re a little proven in the postseason with a healthy starting lineup. At this point, it’s a matter of getting Blake Griffin back soon enough to have him in the flow on both sides of the court. This season, and the sample size of the past few years, tells us there’s no reason to panic unless you’re thinking the Clippers can or should win a title. Given expectations as a second round exit and WCF surprise entry, their problems are less so fixable short-term than an ongoing issue anyway.
Murray: The Clippers shouldn’t be worried about the Warriors, at least not right now. It’s not like they’ll face each other in the first round, it’s not like they can catch them in the standings. It’s still the regular season, so the Clippers should always be worried about what they need to do better. And the biggest problem right now is the complete and utter lack of rebounding. The Warriors have slipped defensively, but the Clippers have slipped in a major way defensively and on the boards during this slide of four losses in five games.
Mesirow: Unfortunately, with the players presently available to them the Clippers probably can’t attack the Warriors’ soft spots the way the Spurs did. Right now they need to focus on themselves, and not worry about who they’re chasing or what’s going on around them. When Blake Griffin comes back, though, the Clippers can take some lessons from the Spurs – allow Blake to make plays like Diaw and post up like Aldrige, two things he can certainly do, and use the advantages that playing Blake and DeAndre together will bring. It’s a long time ago now, but the Clippers are the last team to beat the Warriors in a playoff series, and some of that juice still exists somewhere.
3. Give me three words to describe the current Clippers.
Liu: Same old S***.
Murray: Forwards don’t rebound.
Mesirow: The Clippers are stuck, they’re sleepwalking, and for the first time since Blake Griffin got here, they’ve become boring.