The Week That Was:
The insanity off the court last week transitioned off the court with the firestorm surrounding Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
After two tough losses including a 40-point blowout in Game Two at the Staples Center, Mark Jackson fully embraced the smaller alternative lineup as Draymond Green replaced Jermaine O’Neal, and the Warriors had their best game of the series by far with a largely comfortable win Sunday at Oracle. Even though the game was somewhat overshadowed by the controversy and the Clipper team’s reaction to it, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Warriors played extremely well. The ball movement and activity were both strong and it provided a more repeatable template for how this group of players can beat quality teams even without Andrew Bogut.
The Soapbox: An Unprecedented Game Five
In all likelihood, Tuesday’s Game Five will be one of the biggest tests of the importance of a home crowd in NBA history. While we like to consider parts of professional basketball predictable, I do not think anyone can know how the home crowd will respond to the craziness the entire Clippers organization has to deal with at present. They could rally around the team since their embattled owner will not be in the building or vent their frustration that their hard-earned money continues to end up in the pocket of a despicable human being. [Author’s Note: If that description of Donald Sterling seems strong, please read up on his history before this recent allegation broke.]
Coming off two games with a fabulous Oracle crowd, it was strange after Game Four to hear Doc Rivers and Chris Paul talk about they genuinely do not know what to expect on Tuesday.
Regardless, these distractions have given the Warriors an opening that they can exploit to gain control of the series. Doc Rivers made the comparison of the mental strain to a physical injury – in both cases, your opponent cannot and should not let up. Golden State came out strong on Sunday and established dominance early. While the Clippers fought valiantly and made it too close for comfort towards the end of the third quarter, I do feel that the early control dispirited some members of the team who were already in a different mental space due to the extenuating circumstances.
One of the keys for Game Five will be for the Warriors to start out strong since that could bring out the negative energy in both the fans and the team. The Golden State team we saw on Sunday does not need much help to win games in this series and reestablishing that tone from early in Game Four could end up doing much of the heavy lifting.
I said last week that Games Three and Four would decide the series but the insanity of the last few days gave the Warriors one last great chance in the form of Game Five.
The Week to Come:
The rest of the series, regardless of whether it ends on Thursday in Oakland or Saturday in LA. As I said above, I genuinely have no idea what to expect for Game Five but my intuition is that the Clipper fans fully embrace their team without the presence of their corrosive owner and Doc gets the team fired up to make a statement and not have their season end with three consecutive losses.
That said, it could just as easily spiral out and facilitate a potential home closeout game on Thursday in Oakland so we should all be excited to watch this story play out.