On the afternoon of Saturday, April 19, the NBA world was delivered a shocking upset when the undermanned, scrappy Golden State Warriors marched into the Staples Center and defeated the heavily-favored, high-flying Clippers. Out of 10 ESPN NBA experts, every single one chose the third-seeded Clips to decisively win the series over Golden State. Five of those 10 claimed the series would be over in five games. With the Dubs’ defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut compromised with a broken rib, the national consensus had been that “Lob City” would be just too much for the overachieving Warriors to overcome. Heck, even coach Mark Jackson said he would have picked the Clips over his team if he were an analyst.
Yet, despite all the naysayers, the Dubs did the very thing no one expected them to do – march into the belly of the beast and pull out the win. The articles popping up across the Internet are mostly titled along the lines of “Warriors Steal Win in LA” or “Clippers Lose Homecourt Advantage to the Warriors.” Those articles don’t give enough credit to what those twelve men accomplished on Saturday. Using the words “stole a win” is an insult to job Golden State did. Despite what critics–and the NBA–have said about the foul that Draymond Green committed on Chris Paul going uncalled, the Warriors controlled that game in the final three quarters.
While this series is far from over, the Warriors now control their own destiny. After playing in Los Angeles on Monday, the Dubs then play two games at home in what is sure to be the loudest, most electric arenas of the NBA playoffs. However, before they go home, the Warriors need to show up on Monday. This game is going to be a pivotal point in this series, even more so than the first game. The Clippers were embarrassed by their performance on Saturday afternoon. They were outplayed by Golden State in virtually every aspect of the game. Chris Paul and the Clips will come out firing. After being limited to under twenty minutes, Blake Griffin will come out with a vengeance in Game 2. The Clippers absolutely do not want to fall behind in the series 2-0 and will be playing with a sense of great urgency and desperation. The Warriors need to match that same intensity.
You can be sure the Clips will be making some adjustments to their game plan before Monday’s game. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala (before he got fouled out) feasted on their wing defenders as Steph Curry drew double-teams. While they did a solid job of containing Curry for the most part, the number of open three Thompson was getting could not be a pleasant sight for Doc Rivers. Barnes and Iguodala were clear mismatches in transition, off the dribble, and on the post for J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, and Darren Collison. Additionally, the Clippers did a poor job, outside of DeAndre Jordan, defending the post as David Lee, Draymond Green, Jermaine O’Neal diced up the Clipper interior defense with their passing.
For the Warriors, there were things that needed to be improved as well. The most glaring thing is the turnovers, of which they committed twenty-one. That’s a clear no-no against a team like the Clippers who thrive off scoring points off turnovers when they can get into the open court and unleash “Lob City.” Luckily, in Game 1, the Warriors did a good job of playing transition defense and limiting the Clippers to only eighteen fast break points. If the turnovers continue in the next game, expect the Clippers to cash in. The Warriors also need to do a better job defending the three-point line in the next few games. The Clippers were 10-22 (45.5%) from beyond the arc, and it allowed them to come back into the game in the fourth quarter. Harrison Barnes is the biggest culprit here. Despite the quality game he put forth on the offensive end and on the glass, he didn’t adequately replace Andre Iguodala’s defense and, as a result, J.J. Redick went off from three-point land.
Overall, the theme for the Warriors in Game 2 will be to match the Clippers’ intensity. Going back to Oakland with a commanding 2-0 lead would take a lot of pressure off the Dubs to win both home games. A potential X-factor for the remainder of the series that the Warriors could utilize is, as crazy as it may be, Mo Speights. The Clippers lack a viable big man off the bench, and as a result, it forced DeAndre Jordan to play 45 minutes yesterday. If Jordan sits at any time and the Clippers play their bench, Speights, who has had something of an offensive revival in the last month, would exploit the mighty Clipper bench in the middle.
For all NBA fans, whether you picked the Clippers or the Warriors, you are all about to witness one of the most exciting series in recent memory. All the experts expected the Clippers to handle Golden State, but if the Warriors somehow pull out a Game 2 victory, this series may never go back to Los Angeles.