Los Angeles Clippers (36-18) vs. Golden State Warriors (48-5)
5:30 p.m. PST
February 20, 2016
1. The Clippers follow up a big win against the Spurs with what exactly against the Warriors?
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): A surprisingly close game against the Golden State Warriors at home. The Los Angeles Clippers are, contrary to popular opinion, a rather tough matchup against the Warriors. With GSW flying in after playing in Portland and spending a Friday night in LA, the Clippers should provide a great test. It also doesn’t hurt that the one-big lineup with great spacing has shored up some defensive issues (perhaps fluky but still).
Ben Mesirow (@SemNeb): Probably a loss, but hopefully a competitive one. The Warriors got thrashed last night in Portland, but that may only make them angry. I expect the Clippers to really feel the absence of Blake Griffin in this game, but it’ll be interesting to find out what they look like with Jeff Green presumably playing a lot of small-ball four. Green didn’t exactly light it up in the Warriors-Grizzlies playoff series last year, but at least a few people in the Clipper organization seem to think that Green can be a difference maker in this season’s ceiling. We’ll see.
Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU): I’m on record saying the Clippers would have dropped both games coming out of the All-Star break against the Spurs and Warriors. Well, the Clippers got a nice win Thursday night. And then the Warriors followed up Friday night with the worst loss by a defending champ in nine seasons. Expect a Warriors win, but it’s regular season basketball – the Clippers definitely have the logistics advantage with the Warriors traveling from Portland to play a relatively early Saturday evening tipoff.
2. The dust has settled (if only just) on the Jeff Green trade — do we have any more thoughts or feelings on the matter?
Liu: Nothing much more from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 has changed. Nothing will change. But if this is the marginal upgrade that some foresee considering how bad Paul Pierce is, I post this question: what makes you think Coach Doc will bench Pierce when it matters?
Mesirow: I’m ambivalent about this trade – letting go of a first round pick and giving up on Lance Stephenson feels like an overpay for Green, who the Grizzlies have been trying to dump for a while. Still, he’s probably a talent upgrade for the roster, and should help with the rest of this season while Blake is out. It’s a shortsighted move, but we’ve heard over and over again that this core has a rapidly approaching expiration date (though honestly I’m still not sure why). A win-now move like this that probably inches the Clippers a little closer to the top of the West doesn’t seem out of character.
Murray: Here’s the deal – folks like Bob and Amin had it easy this week trolling the Clippers for this deal. It wasn’t made in the best interests of the team long-term. But the trolls don’t play for the Clippers, and they don’t have to coach them. There’s a reason why Jeff Green was available, but Rivers got the best out of him as a pro, and there’s a great relationship there. That counts for something, since that trust wasn’t there for Lance Stephenson. Now, if Rivers is able to scheme meaningful production out of Green following a maddeningly inconsistent tenure in Memphis, then this L.A. team will make the postseason more interesting.
3. Will the Warriors reach that elusive 73-win mark? What’s the scenario where they don’t?
Liu: Yes. Injuries. The Warriors are downright lying when they say they aren’t chasing 73. They are and they will get it unless someone gets hurt out of Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson. Or Steve Kerr goes Full Pop and sends guys to the Bahamas during the last two weeks of the season.
Mesirow: I think they can definitely do it. Despite the way they got torched by the Blazers, the only scenario (barring injury) in which I see them going 24-5 or worse after being 48-4 at the All-Star Break is if the Spurs fall way out of the race for first in the West. Then the Warriors could collectively decide that they’d rather just kick back and coast for the last few weeks. Based on what we’ve seen from them, though, that doesn’t seem likely.
Murray: No. They won’t. It’s a shame, too. I really wanted to see the Warriors win 34 straight games within a season (breaking the Lakers’ record set in 1972) and win 73+ games, but after their embarrassing losses in Milwaukee and Portland this season, I’m done worrying about it. It’s a waste of time, and they’re probably going to soften up and rest players once spring gets here.