Golden State Warriors (18-3) @ LA Clippers (16-6)
7:30 p.m. PST
December 7, 2016
The LA Clippers finally got two days off! And now they get their biggest test of the season as they face the NBA-best Golden State Warriors.
This is a matchup between the NBA’s best offense and the NBA’s best defense. The Warriors come in with the top offensive efficiency rating, scoring 115.4 points per 100 possessions. They will be challenged by a Clippers defense that is allowing a league-low 99.5 points per 100 possessions.
Of course, if this game is anything like the previous 8 matchups between Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, then this game will be an offensive showcase for the Warriors. Kerr’s team has defeated Doc’s squad 7 out of 8 meetings, including each of the last 6 and each of the last 3 games at STAPLES Center. The Warriors have won by an average score of 111.0 to 105.4, and while each team has made 313 total field goals in these 8 games, the Warriors have made 25 more FTs and 20 more threes. The Warriors have also made 42.4 percent of their threes against the Clippers since Kerr took over.
The last time the Clippers beat the Warriors was on Christmas Day in 2014, a 100-86 decision that marked the only time that one of the two teams failed to score 90 points.
None of these games included LA’s preseason opener, a dumpster fire performance in Golden State just over 9 weeks ago that saw Warriors SG Klay Thompson score 30 points in just over 21 minutes:
Yeah. The Warriors led by as many as 53 points in a game they won 120-75. What makes that alarming for the Clippers is the game the Warriors just came off of: a 142-106 beatdown of the Indiana Pacers, featuring a career-high 60 points from Thompson in just 3 quarters and just under 30 minutes! Thompson tagged those dudes for 21-of-33 from the field – 10 of those made buckets were on Indiana SG Monta Ellis, Thompson’s undersized former teammate. I mean, look at this:
Lmao sheesh @KlayThompson
— Marreese Speights (@Mospeights16) December 6, 2016
Sheesh is right – that will be Clippers SGs J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers that will be responsible for stopping Thompson’s streaks, cuts, curls, post-ups, etc. Those two gave up 6 of Thompson’s 10 baskets from the preseason game, including 3 of Thompson’s 6 threes. Thompson also made 7-of-10 threes in the last meeting that counted vs. LA, back in March.
That same Pacers team that didn’t have an answer for Thompson and the Warriors swept the Clippers this season, winning the previous night in LA by coming back from a 15-point 1st quarter deficit. Let’s put it this way – the Clippers can’t afford defensive lapses like this Wednesday night against the Warriors:
Golden State gets a lot of attention for their three-point shooting, but they aren’t making the most threes in the league (12.3 made threes per game, 3rd in the NBA) and they’re not shooting the best percentage (38.5 percent from three, 4th in the NBA) this season. What the Warriors are doing is making 57.1 percent of their shots taken inside the arc, which would break the record set by the 2013-2014 Miami Heat that made 55.8 percent of their 2-point baskets. Free agent acquisition SF Kevin Durant, late of Oklahoma City, is making 62.2 percent of his 2-point baskets this year – the same number that former Miami Heat SF LeBron James made for the 2013-2014 Heat.
(The only players in NBA history to shoot a better 2-point percentage than 62.2 with at least 10 2-point FGAs per game are Wilt Chamberlain, Artis Gilmore 3x, and Charles Barkley 4x – but that’s none of my business 🐸☕️…)
The Clippers are going to need SF Luc Mbah a Moute to be at his best in this matchup. Mbah a Moute was huge in matchups this season with other elite SFs like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and James, helping to hold those three to a combined 13-of-45 from the field (28.9 percent) in wins against the Spurs, Bulls, and Cavaliers respectively. As a team, LA allows 8.3 made threes this season (5th-fewest in NBA) and opponents make 43.5 percent from the field (5th-lowest in NBA).
With all of that said, this game will ultimately be decided by what happens when the Clippers have the ball. Golden State’s defense ranks 9th this season – certainly good enough to win a championship, but another decline under Kerr after last year’s Warriors ranked 4th and the 2014-2015 champion Warriors ranked 1st. Golden State is actually 3rd in the league this season in FG percentage allowed (43.3 percent) and 2nd in three-point percentage allowed (32.6 percent), but only the Celtics, Knicks, and Pacers have a worse defensive rebounding percentage.
LA has the 5th-ranked offense in the league, and no team makes or attempts more FTs than the Clippers. That’s why it’s so critical for PF Blake Griffin, PG Chris Paul, and even Jordan to get to the line early and often.
And you can’t forget about the lineups. The Clippers starting unit is the most-used 5-man lineup in the league this season, and it has outperformed the Warriors starting unit. But the “Hamptons 5” unit has been the 2nd-best unit in the league this season, minimum 100 minutes:
Get used to this matchup between these two teams – they play the entire 4-game series in a span of just 79 days.
Blake, Jamal, & Luc came by to chat post-practice
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 6, 2016