The Golden State Warriors (15-21) will face the Los Angeles Clippers (11-24) today in a rematch of their October 29th game that the Dubs won 109-91. Both teams have changed since their last encounter and it should make for an interesting game.
On offense, the Clippers produce 97.3 points per game (19th in the NBA) on 45.6% field goal shooting (16th in the league). In their last tilt though, the Clippers offensive stars struggled to put the ball in the basket as Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Blake Griffin combined to shoot 22 for 58 (37.9%) from the field. Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that the Clippers struggled to score against the Warriors frontline. According to Hoopdata they only converted 11 out of 20 shots at the rim (55%) when they typically make 64% (15th in the association).
Couple that with the fact that Los Angeles’ other team only converted 12 of their 43 shots beyond 10 feet (an abysmal 27.9% shooting mark) and well you get the idea that the Clips wouldn’t even have been able to throw a rock into water if they were standing on a boat (old Friends joke). Granted, the Clippers are a good offensive rebounding team as evidenced by the 12.2 boards they obtain on the offensive glass on average (sixth best in the league); but their ball security issues prevent them from truly capitalizing on that strength.
Indeed, the L.A. Clippers average 16.6 turnovers per game (28th in the NBA) and lost the ball 17 times on October 29th which the Warriors turned into 20 points. And yet, this Clippers team is a scary one for opponents because of their interior scoring. According to Team Rankings, they produce 46.9 points per game in the paint (second in the league). One might think that this comes mostly from thunderous Blake Griffin dunks but that would only be partially true. One of the biggest reasons that this team is able to score inside is because of their guards.
Baron Davis and Eric Gordon are stronger than most typical guards; consequently they are able to get into the lane and finish against opposing big men. Furthermore, because of their size and strength, they can back down smaller guards and essentially get any shot they want inside the lane.
On defense, the Clippers surrender 100.7 points per game (19th in the NBA) on 45.1% field goal shooting (14th in the league). Part of the reason that they struggle when guarding teams is their poor perimeter defense. Indeed, it is far too easy for opposing guards and small forwards to get passed their initial defender to create a shot for themselves or a teammate.
Although we saw this manifested in the first match up, the Clippers have improved to a certain degree ever since. They allowed the Warriors to put up 109 points on 53.1% shooting because of the reasons mentioned above; but also because Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman did a poor job of rotating on defense. To be fair though, Kaman was just plain awful. He was exposed repeatedly in one on one match ups, as well as in the pick and roll. Griffin on the other hand was beat a few times in the post but has since improved his post and help defense.
Also, the play of DeAndre Jordan defensively has helped the team defend the paint judging from their 37.2 points per game allowed (fifth in the league). However, I would caution fans to take that stat with a grain of salt. Given the fact that they allow teams to drive on them fairly frequently, they end up fouling a lot at the basket; which results in 26.7 free throw attempts per game allowed (23rd in the association).
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Clippers are the second worst team in the league at defending the three point shot; giving up 39.8% from downtown. The kicker? They play a lot of zone. Los Angeles normally abandons the man to man defense for a few stretches during games in order to limit the driving lanes for opposing perimeter players; however they normally stretch their zone out a bit too thin and allow shooters to get open looks. It’s part of the reason that Golden State was able to make 14 of 24 shots from deep the last time these teams met.
Expect both backcourts to be fairly productive against each other and also for the Clippers to crash the boards and get some second chance opportunities. Golden State should get a chance to force miscues and then get out in transition for some easy scores. Ultimately though, if the Dubs convert the open looks they get from deep (and they should get quite a few), they should get a win.
L.A. Clippers game notes: Chris Kaman has been out since re-injuring his ankle on December 5th and no timetable has yet been set for his return.
Golden State game notes: David Lee had been struggling with some back issues but was productive Friday night against the Cavaliers with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
J.M. Poulard is a part time contributor for Warriors World and you can follow him on Twitter under the handle name ShyneIV.