The two stars for the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers are point guards: Stephen Curry and Chris Paul. Their most recent encounter, without the blood and gore we usually see when the two teams get together, was about who has the best supporting cast.
Right now? No contest in favor of the Warriors winning 106-98, especially while Blake Griffin is still out. Curry did deliver one of the most awesome moment of dribbling skills we’ve seen this season, but overall had a quiet game, scoring just 12 points on 3-of-9 from the field. The Warriors found other ways to win this one.
The most important one was using Draymond Green as their center. DeAndre Jordan doesn’t have a lot of use when taken away from the paint, so Bogut was left out and Green was inserted to lead a small lineup that also included someone like Shaun Livingston, not exactly the smallest of point guards, on the floor.
The Warriors outscored the Clippers by 8 points on 9-of-14 from the field with Green at center, scoring 1.27 points per play compared to 0.94 on all other lineups, including 47% from the field, often getting easier shots by drawing Jordan away from the basket. Green scored 23 points in one of his finest performances this season, while Livingston finished with 21. Of those 21 points, 12 came during the “small lineups” experiment.
Chris Paul hasn’t been too far behind Russell Westbrook recently in terms of the numbers he’s been putting up, also trying to carry a team without an All-Star forward. Paul was held to 14 points and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc, although he did manage to find his way through double teams and traps with 11 assists. But the Clippers turned the ball over 18 times against the difficult to figure-out Warriors defense, creating 29 fast break points.
Right now, the Clippers, especially without Griffin, are a step behind the best teams in the West. The pack is led by the Warriors, showing once again what a coaching change can do, even for a winning team, bringing in the kind of creativity and adjustment making that simply wasn’t there while Mark Jackson was on the sidelines. Steve Kerr is still a long way from a championship, but he’s making all the right moves.