On Thursday night the Los Angeles Clippers arrived in Oakland for their first playoff game in the Bay Area since the 20th century and were greeted by a sea of yellow and a twenty thousand of the craziest fans in the country roaring in unison. Unfortunately, the Golden State Warriors were unable to capitalize on the opportunity to seize control of the series despite the energy from the home fans. Now the Dubs will have to battle the Clips again on Sunday afternoon at Oracle. This time, however, they’ll be fighting just to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The biggest story of the series so far has been the Clippers’ ability to remove all-world shooter Stephen Curry from the Warriors’ gameplan entirely. As soon as the ball finds its way into his hands, the Clippers have been quick to send two, sometimes three, defenders at him. As a result, he has had no room to get his shot off from behind the three-point line. Curry, to his credit, has been attempting to make the right basketball play whenever the double-team comes to him. He has subsequently dumped the ball to David Lee at the high post or has swung the ball to another Warrior wing.
The Warriors cannot win this series if Steph Curry continues to be a facilitator. While he has had good intentions in his efforts to involve his teammates, the Warriors offense has become completely stagnant without his scoring. The Clippers have made it a point to run the Warrior guards off the three-point line. With Curry neutralized by double-teams, the rest of the guys in blue on the floor have been unable to create offense by driving to the basket. Without Andrew Bogut’s passing ability in the middle, David Lee has struggled offensively against the defense of DeAndre Jordan. While no one can question their hearts, Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green haven’t provided enough on the offensive end to compensate for the struggles of Curry and Thompson.
Defensively, the Warriors in Game 3 played as well as they could without Andrew Bogut. Without Bogut, there is no one on the Dubs’ roster who can realistically stop Blake Griffin. David Lee is a notoriously bad defender, and Griffin has made sure he takes advantage of the mismatch. Off the bench, Draymond Green has played decent defense on Griffin, but Griffin’s size and athleticism has been too much to handle. The most disturbing defensive lapse on the part of the Warriors has been the impact of J.J. Redick. With the attention Chris Paul and Griffin have drawing, the Warrior defense has been forced to collapse the paint, and the sharpshooting J.J. Redick has made them pay for it.
This is a matchup Andre Iguodala is losing, and he has been far too tentative on the offensive end to counter Redick. Redick is a poor defender, and Iguodala is one of the most athletic and strongest finishers in the league. If the Warriors want to have a chance of winning the series, Iguodala needs to step up in Game 4. The front office brought in Iguodala over the offseason to do three things – play defense, finish in transition, and be a veteran leader. This is the time for Iguodala to prove he was worth bringing in. This is the time for him to show why he is an All-NBA defender. This is the time for him to realize how much this team needs him. This is the time for Iguodala to be the Warriors’ X-factor. The Warriors were one less Chris Paul-uncalled-foul from taking Game 3. Iguodala is talented enough to make at least that much of a difference.
The Warriors’ entire season is riding on Game 4. If they win, the series is tied, and any thing can happen. If they lose, they go back to Los Angeles in a 3-1 hole. Assuming Bogut doesn’t play, expect Mark Jackson to tinker with the starting lineup. Perhaps starting Marreese Speights or Draymond Green to give Griffin a different look? Either way, we are about to see who these Warriors really are.