If there’s one series in these playoffs, or at least the first round, with bad blood taking over the storyline, it’s the one between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, with Blake Griffin usually in the middle of it all because teams and especially the Warriors love to target him.
The Warriors are going to try and get Andrew Bogut on the court, but a fractured rib means a big problem for them. The Clippers have plenty of strengths – on paper a team that can score in pretty much every way, but without Bogut the presence of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan might be too much for them to overcome, and the Jermaine O’Neal and David Lee frontcourt tandem won’t be able to make much of a difference.
Bogut going down means problem for the defense. Yes, Draymond Green adds toughness and Andre Iguodala is still a fantastic wing defender. But most great defenses have a certain anchor to use. The Miami Heat of previous years might have been the case you exclude, playing without a true center for most of the time, but the rest of the strong defenses in the NBA begin their efficient runs with a big man and body manning the paint. The Warriors are third in the NBA, allowing 99.4 points per 100 possessions.
But the Clippers have the best offensive efficiency in the league, and the best point guard in the league. It’s going to be one interesting battle between Chris Paul and Stephen Curry, but the Warriors’ only hope of making a series out of this one is for everyone, even those not used to defending well, to step up significantly, and for Curry to have four to seven games of lights out shooting. Even that might not be enough.
The bench might be where the big differences become an issue. Harrison Barnes has been awful all season, and with O’Neal probably starting, there’s no real big man backup to Lee and him. Steve Blake has been disappointing, and Jordan Crawford is one of the most untrustworthy players one can think of. The Clippers have a much better Crawford of their own to rely on, with Darren Collison proving he can be very efficient with big minutes as well when he was needed that much.
Prediction – When healthy, the Warriors should be taken seriously as outside contenders for the title in the West. But at the moment? The Clippers have looked better recently, not to mention having too many advantages going into the series, and probably taking it in six games.