Every playoff matchup in the Western Conference is going to be epic this season. The Mavericks are the 8th seed in the West, yet they have the 10th best record in the league. As a conference, they’ve performed above and beyond expectation. Things are going to get bloody no matter what series you talk about. But the Warriors going against the Clippers will be especially juicy. It’s evident that these two teams don’t really like each other and their rivalry is something that dates back to last season. The bad blood between these two seasons will make this series perfect.
Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 57-25 Off. Efficiency: 109.4 Def. Efficiency: 102.1 The Los Angeles Clippers are the new showtime in town. They boast the best offense in the NBA and the two headed monster that spearheads it is made up of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Both are going to be tough covers for the Warriors to handle–especially with the loss of Andrew Bogut. The Warriors are going to have a tough time covering these guys in all aspects. They’re both especially good in transition. But Griffin’s ball handling in transition has become a huge plus for the Clippers. He’s always had a great handle on the ball but new coach Doc Rivers has allowed him to showcase that skill more this season than ever before. Blake is able to grab rebounds and take the ball coast to coast and is also able to dish it while on the move. But what has made Griffin’s season more spectacular than ever is his new jump shot. Griffin has immensely improved from the midrange area and that will be key in bringing the Warriors’ defense further out. He’s now a league average shooter from midrange–a huge improvement from season’s prior. When Griffin screens Chris Paul, his options are to dive or to shallow roll to the side. He has the power to sway the defense one way or another because of his jump shot. And when teams come out further to prevent him from getting clean looks, plays like this one happen.
Paul and Griffin are a monstrous tandem in the pick and roll game. They have a coach in Doc Rivers that puts them in situations where the defense is forced to pick their poison and, more often than not, it doesn’t matter which one it is–they’re doomed from the start. The Warriors will have a tough time guarding both of them, but if they put some size on Chris Paul and play them physically, they’ll give themselves a shot.
Golden State Warriors
Record: 51-31 Off. Efficiency: 105.3 Def. Efficiency: 99.9 The Warriors are a team that many casual fans don’t really have a pulse on. The reason being is because they think the Warriors are a top offensive team in the league. Last year’s team that upset the Nuggets and took shots at the Spurs really resonates with the public still. However, that team is completely different from this year’s team. The Warriors’ defense is more predicated on defense than anything else. Their defensive effort is their calling card as they have the third best defense in the entire league. Their offense is above average, but it’s farther from the top than most would think. A lot of that assertion comes from Stephen Curry putting up video game numbers–but that’s the issue. If he doesn’t put up those numbers, the Warriors are almost no good on the offensive end. Curry has logged heavy minutes all season long and boasts a usage rate of 28.8%–a high mark good for 9th most in the league. Along with that high usage rate, he assists on 40% of all of the Warriors field goals. He has accounted for a higher percentage of the Warriors points than any other play has done this season for their respective teams. Higher than LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden and everyone else you can think of. The Clippers are a team that normally traps the ball out high. They’re going to try their hardest to force Curry into turnovers like this one.
Without Andrew Bogut, the Warriors are going to struggle to defend the rim. They’ll have Andre Iguodala on the front end to guard Chris Paul, but it’ll be hard to defend Blake Griffin in the post or at the rim without Bogut. If they turn the ball over like they did above, they’ll have no shot at stopping the league’s best offense. Their best formula for winning is to possess the ball and keep it out of transition. The Warriors are a team that likes to play at a frantic pace, so maybe they slow the game down a bit and force the Clippers to play without transition buckets. If they can do that, they’ll give themselves a chance. This series will be a hard one for them, regardless, because of the loss of Andrew Bogut down low.
**** The bitter rivalry between these two squads is a rarity in today’s NBA. In a league where everyone knows everyone and the players consistently workout together, it’s rare to find guys who genuinely don’t like each other. But with their rivalry as an underlying story, Mark Jackson’s job security and the flare that the narrative that Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul all bring, this should be an exciting series.