Preview: Golden State Warriors at L.A. Clippers

Two of the league's best point guards in Stephen Curry and Chris Paul will go at it at the Staples Center. - Ezra Shaw

The first road game of the season is a test against the second (and better) Los Angeles division rival.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors

TV: Nationally televised, TNT

Radio: KNBR 680

Tip-off: 7:30 PM

Arena: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Blog Buddy: Clips Nation

No matter the results of Clippers-Lakers two nights ago, tonight's matchup between the Warriors and Clippers features the two best teams in the Pacific Division. These two teams will be fighting for division supremacy all year. Last season, these two teams played four doozies and Golden State won the season series 3-1. The Clippers have added a championship coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers and two new starters in swingmen Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick over the offseason, and are looking to build on a franchise record in wins last year as well as the franchise's first ever division title. Los Angeles is one of the favorites to represent the Western Conference this year. That fact will make some people question reality, I know, but it's true. With Chris Paul back in the fold (re-signed for 5 years at a maximum deal), plus another year of progression from Blake Griffin, and if DeAndre Jordan can shoot from outside five feet, the Clippers actually have a real shot to make the Finals.

Rivers has run Redick off of screens much like he used Ray Allen in Boston, with numerous "floppy" sets. The set starts with Redick at the bottom of the key and running off either a single or double staggered screen on the wing for an open shot, from midrange or a three-pointer. (You'll also see Golden State run this set with the Splash Brothers, it's a very common NBA tactic devised to get shooters open.)

Harrison Barnes is out tonight with "foot inflammation," and for the foreseeable future is day-to-day. Expect Golden State's starters to play heavy minutes tonight and for the duration of Barnes' injury, as the bench right now doesn't have any true "shot-creators." Unless, of course, the game is like last night where the Warriors are up by thirty in the third quarter.

Both teams are known for their prime offenses; the Clippers have led the league in alley-oops the past two seasons, and Stephen Curry set a record for most three-pointers in a single season. With star point guard Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers have two of the best offensive players at their positions. Last season, Paul was All-NBA First team and Griffin was All-NBA Second team for the second consecutive season. David Lee made the All-Star team, and Curry and Klay Thompson finished first and third in the NBA in threes made, respectively. Yesterday, Golden State ruthlessly hunted great shots, shooting 15-27 from three, 53.5 percent from the field, and had 34 assists on 46 baskets.

However, in this game, victory will be realized by whomever can better execute defensively.

While offense is what gets on the highlight reels, defense is what wins championships. Both Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson are known for preaching defense-first styles. Golden State looks to have shored up that side of the ball, with a healthy Andrew Bogut and the additions of Toney Douglas and Andre Iguodala, perhaps the NBA's premier perimeter defender. With these additions, Golden State should jump into the top-ten in defensive efficiency, shocking for everyone who knows the Warriors as a purely offensive, finesse team. Against the Clippers, Bogut and Iguodala should play key roles on defense in guarding Griffin and Paul at the end of games.

However, the jury is still out on the Clippers, who allowed 41 points to the Laker reserves in the fourth quarter Tuesday night. They allowed 116 points on nearly fifty percent shooting. These are crazy numbers that just jump off the page. In the post, DeAndre Jordan is lengthy and athletic, has tremendous potential defensively, and Doc Rivers even claimed in the offseason that he could be the Defensive Player of the Year; be that as it may, over the course of his career he has never demonstrated a real sense of where to be on the defensive end and tries to block a lot of shots to compensate, which works sometimes, but often results in foul trouble. He may be the only below-average-to-average big the Clippers have defensively, because does Blake Griffin, Ryan Hollins, Byron Mullens, and Antwan Jamison scare you in the slightest on that end?

Sorkin's 4 Keys for a Warriors Win

1) Attack the Clippers bigs offensively, with pick-and-rolls, post-ups, and whatever can get them in space.

2) Stephen Curry, the Human Torch, must have a big game, both offensively and defensively, going against the best point guard in the league.

3) It's only fitting that the third key is about the three-pointer. If the Clippers allowed the Laker reserves to shoot 45% from three, I fear for what happens tonight against last year's top three-point shooting team. I mean, there's a reason Tom Haberstroh of ESPN wrote this article on Stephen Curry (ESPN Insider, $), right?

4) Limit the Chris Paul show to a bare minimum. The Dubs must be able to hold him in check.

Predictions

  • David Lee and Andrew Bogut each have double-doubles against the Clippers atrocious defensive front line.
  • Stephen Curry and Chris Paul both have at least 25 points and 12 dimes.
  • Klay Thompson and J.J. Redick combine for nine threes.
  • Someone gets a flagrant foul in this game - these two teams don't like each other (not quite Bulls-Heat, but getting there slowly.)
  • The game goes down to the wire, but Golden State pulls away to win by nine.
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