The Golden State Warriors (1-1) will look to rebound from last night’s loss at the hand of the Memphis Grizzlies when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers (2-0) tonight at Staples Center (7:30 p.m.). We asked our very own Warriors World staff as well as Jovan Buha from ClipperBlog, the Clippers ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog, to answer a few questions about the contest tonight.
1. Despite the absence of Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers have defeated two playoff teams from last season by a combined 19 points. Can the Clippers win the Western Conference?
J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: The Clippers have talent coupled with continuity and chemistry going for them, which makes them a formidable opponent for every team in the league at the moment. And if that wasn’t enough, Vinny Del Negro’s crew carries itself with a lot of confidence and swagger, following the lead of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups.
I’m a firm believer that every championship contender — if the Clips are going to win the west, that invariably makes them championship contenders — needs a perimeter floor leader to break down the defense and make plays, at least one great big man and a good if not great defense. The Clippers have two of those three.
If their defense morphs into one capable of stringing along multiple fourth quarter stops, then yes, I believe they can win the conference. Hence, the answer is no…for now.
Jovan Buha, Clipperblog: Yes. The Clippers are one of four teams, along with the Lakers, Thunder and Spurs, who can win the West and advance to the NBA Finals. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can each take over a game offensively, a luxury not many teams have. Grant Hill’s injury will likely limit him for just the next few weeks, so this isn’t a long-term hindrance. Even then, Matt Barnes is more than capable of filling in. While Chauncey Billups is projected to be out until early December, he’s been practicing with the team — with contact, no less — so he may return sooner. But Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe are nice insurance policies, right? This team has two legitimate superstars (a minimum requirement to advance deep in the playoffs, it seems), is at least 10 players deep, and can defeat any team on any given night. The questions arise at the defensive end and at the coaching position. To make the finals, they’ll need a lot to break right, but it’s possible.
Jack Winter, Warriors World: The Clippers had a very active and aggressive offseason but their summer moves flew under the radar because of the splashy moves of LA’s new “other” team. Still, the acquisitions of Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, and Lamar Odom solidify a reserve corps that might have been the worst in last year’s playoffs. Hell, even the collective value of guys like Willie Green, Ryan Hollins, and Ronnie Turiaf represent a small upgrade compared to 2012. Crawford, in particular, has been fantastic so far and gives LAC a much-needed shot-creator other than Chris Paul. With a full slate of health, this is easily one of the deepest and most well-rounded rosters in the NBA.
But can they win the West? That question has as much to do with how the presumptive favorites – Oklahoma City and those cross-town Lakers – adjust to big roster changes as it does any potential development from the Clippers. If Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Eric Bledsoe take another step forward and all the new pieces are integrated seamlessly by Spring time, they’ll be a serious threat to any team in the postseason. Assuming health and eventual cohesion from OKC and LAL, though, and the Clippers will likely be a step or two behind. Then there’s those pesky Spurs, always a major contender for Western supremacy.
LAC winning the west – Possible? Certainly. Likely? Not yet.
2. What is the one factor that you will be paying attention to the most when the Warriors take on the Clippers tonight?
J.M. Poulard: Through the first two games of the season, the Warriors are averaging 18.5 turnovers per game. That kind of lack of ball security is precisely what gets teams beat in the NBA.
Coming into the contest tonight, the Los Angeles Clippers are forcing their opponents into committing 20.5 miscues per game, and using them to score 25 fast break points on average. Between Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford, the Clips have the speed, quickness and ballhandling necessary to get out in transition and score. If the Dubs aren’t careful, they might get run over.
Jovan Buha: Can the Warriors score enough to beat the Clippers? Lawler’s Law states that the first to 100 points wins (Ralph Lawler is the Clippers’ play-by-play announcer). In their last six games (including preseason), the Warriors have only scored over 100 points twice. Neither time was in the regular season. They’ve been struggling with the law, to say the least. Meanwhile, the Clippers have scored over 100 points in their last two victories, both over playoff teams (Grizzlies and Lakers) with perennially good defenses — the Lakers are in a weird funk, but they’ll be fine. We know the Warriors are going to struggle defending Paul and Griffin, and will likely surrender triple-digits to L.A. If they win, it’ll have to come from their offense. For them to keep up in this shootout, they’ll need a lot of ammo.
Jack Winter: How the Warriors deal with the Los Angeles frontcourt without Andrew Bogut. This looked like a major early litmus test for Golden State’s new interior rotation when the schedule was released, but the stipulations regarding Bogut’s recovery from an ankle injury means he’ll miss this second end of a back-to-back.
For all the warts Griffin and Jordan present as shooters and disciplined defenders, they’re still one of the NBA’s best young post tandems. And obviously, their surreal athleticism and finishing ability is only magnified by Paul’s court sense and brilliance as a passer. They’re physical on both ends, too, as evidenced by last season’s first round streetfight against Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and the Memphis Grizzlies.
With Bogut in the lineup, this seemed a matchup of strength on strength. He’ll be sitting courtside in street clothes, though, and one presumes Griffin and Jordan will prove too much for David Lee, Carl Landry, rookie Festus Ezeli and (gasp) Andris Biedrins. It doesn’t help things, either, that Griffin has yet to exert himself offensively through the season’s first two games. Against middling (at best) defenders in Lee and Landry, he could have a huge night.
3. Who wins tonight and why?
J.M. Poulard: With the Warriors still trying to figure themselves out offensively and the Clippers further along in terms of their team play, I like the Clippers tonight. Lob City has an explosive transition game that can potentially wreak havoc if it’s fed with turnovers and it seems apparent that as part of the growing pains of this young season that the Dubs will be coughing it up some.
And in addition, should the game be close down the stretch, the Clippers have arguably the best crunch time assassin in the NBA.
Jovan Buha: The Clippers. Riding the high of defeating their nemesis across the Staples Center halls, the Clippers pull through in a tough game against the Bay Area’s finest. It’s a back-to-back for both teams, but the Clippers have yet to leave L.A., while the Warriors had to catch a late flight after a grueling Memphis loss. The Warriors pose a lot if problems for the Clippers, but Paul and Griffin have each yet to “go off” offensively. Neither has scored 20 points in a game. For some reason, I feel that changes against the Warriors. It’ll be closer than the preseason game, but Clippers win 104-93.
Jack Winter: The Clippers are locked in right now and primed to show the NBA they deserve to be mentioned among the league’s very best. Golden State, meanwhile, is missing Bogut and could still be reeling emotionally from the devastating injury to Brandon Rush. Combine those factors with LAC’s talent edge and homecourt advantage, and this one could get ugly quickly.
Clippers win by a comfortable margin on the strength of a big game from Griffin.