In one of the most eagerly anticipated first round playoff series the Los Angeles Clippers will face the Golden State Warriors in the opening round of the NBA’s Western Conference playoffs, starting Saturday at STAPLES Center Saturday, with game two scheduled for STAPLES Center on Monday night. The Warriors, who finished sixth in the Western Conference playoff standings, were dealt a major blow this past week when starting center Andrew Bogut suffered a fractured rib.
The Clippers are coming off of their second consecutive Pacific Division title and the top record in team history. After a disappointing exit at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies in last season’s playoffs the Clippers, with Doc Rivers at the helm, enter the playoffs with high expectations. The Clippers success has created major expectations in Los Angeles that the team is primed for a finals run. When star point guard Chris Paul went down with an injury early this year, power forward Blake Griffin took his game to the next level, garnering attention as a potential dark horse MVP candidate. In Paul and Griffin the Clippers have two established superstars, arguably two of the top ten players in the NBA. With the return of JJ Redick the Clippers are also healthy for the first time in several months, with the entire starting lineup intact.
The series will be defined by the point guard matchup between Chris Paul and Warriors superstar fourth-year forward Stephon Curry. Curry has nearly unlimited range and along with Klay Thompson forms the premier shooting backcourt in the NBA. Curry, arguably the best three point shooter in the history of the NBA, is the catalyst for the Warriors offense, constantly pushing the basketball with the ability to score from the outside and in transition.
Due to Golden State’s unique home court advantage at Oracle Arena it’s important for the Clippers to get off to a fast start at STAPLES Center, not letting the Warriors steal a game before the series heads to the Bay Area. With Bogut out due to injury the Clippers will have an advantage inside with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Veteran Jermaine O’Neal will be forced to play extra minutes alongside David Lee inside. Lee is already a weakness on the defensive end, and the Warriors interior defense will suffer mightily without Bogut, who is a strong presence on the boards and as a shot blocker. The Clippers extraordinary depth, which includes Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and Danny Granger off the bench gives them depth advantage. If they can exploit their depth through an up-tempo style they should be able to offset the firepower of Curry and Thompson.
Prediction: The loss of Bogut will have a major impact on the series. The big Aussie is a major presence inside and the Warriors interior defense will suffer without him. The Clippers tremendous overall depth, as well as the coaching of Doc Rivers, should overwhelm the Warriors. Clippers in five.
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BY: Chris M.