Chris Nielsen already said it yesterday: although the Golden State Warriors' game against the Portland Trail Blazers yielded an exciting outcome in the team's first test, tonight's game against the L.A. Clippers will be the marquee early-season matchup almost no matter the outcome.
We've already shared our thoughts about the Clippers over the last...well...since the Warriors' season ended in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, but to help add some balance to the conversation I asked Johnny Stark of Clips Nation a few questions about his team. You can see my answers to his questions by heading over to Clips Nation
Without further ado, the Q&A.
Q&A with Clips Nation
GSoM: Let's begin with some common ground and move from there: both of our teams have beaten the Lakers this season and we probably both savor being superior to them after years of being dominated. One thing we've discussed at GSoM is how we should regard them now: with derision, sympathy, or by simply ignoring them. As Clippers fans, what's your attitude about the Lakers' plight right now?
Johnny Stark: If anything, I would take door number 3 with a slight mix of schadenfreude. I don't really think it is worth the effort to feel bad for them or kick them while they are down. However, I can't help but chuckle when I hear my Laker fan friends try to explain how they will end up with the 7 seed this year. I think the Laker organization and fan base could use a few seasons of humbling, but I've never really paid much attention to them so it doesn't really move the emotional meter for me personally. I'm sure there are many in the Clips Nation community who feel differently than I do.
GsoM: In any event, the Clippers did struggle with the Lakers and lost to the Kings. Are there any common themes from those games that might be reason for Clippers fans to worry about the team realizing its potential this season?
JS: By far the biggest issue is missing open shots. I'm happy with the defense so far when you consider how many points a game we were allowing this time last season. The offense has been generating a ton of open looks, our guys just aren't hitting them. In particular, Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick have been spectacularly bad shooting percentages. On whole, the Clippers' shooters looked a bit better against the Jazz. I'm guessing Reggie Bullock just had a good night - we shall see if he can keep it up against you guys.
The first home test of the season
For the first time since Game 7 of the 2013-14 First Round, the Warriors will take on the Clippers in an actual game. You know, one that matters in the standings.
GSoM: Steve Perrin has written that perimeter defense - and the SF position in particular - has been a major problem for the Clips. Long-term, how do you think the team will try to mitigate that?
JS: It has been bad but it's still early. I think Barnes will be able to pull it together somewhat and I haven't given up on Bullock's potential to be a solid 3-D guy. I think we might make a move around the deadline similar to the Granger pick up last season, but I don't think we will be trading Jamal or any other significant piece for a new SF this season. I think our long-term questions at the 3 will be solved this off season by solidifying Reggie as the starter or by going after a free agent using the MLE.
GSoM: Offseason acquisition Chris Douglas-Roberts was one of those players Steve mentioned as a decent option at SF. But when you look at the Clippers' offseason acquisitions overall, which one do you think might have the biggest impact on the matchup with the Warriors?
JS: I'm hoping Spencer Hawes will have the biggest impact against the Dubs. With any luck we will pull Bogut out of the lane to clear room for Blake and company to cut to the rim. He has been shooting below his career average from deep but he still has a shot that has to be respected. If he is left alone behind the arc, I think he will be able to do some damage.
GSoM: Sticking with the frontcourt, there has been a good amount of talk about Blake Griffin's improved jumper and why everyone should be scared about that. How much a factor do you think that will be against the Warriors or do you think there's something else that represents a more significant change in how these two teams match up?
JS: I think that Blake's jumper will be a major factor in combination with Hawes' shot from beyond the arc. If the bigs can sink outside shots consistently, it will open up the paint for Barnes to cut for lay-ups. Barnes doing that could be the difference in the game. In a match-up like this, you know the stars are going to get theirs, the role players can be a major influence on the outcome. When Blake was needing to get to the rim to get points, it clogged up the flow of the offense. If he can be a true threat from outside, it is a game changer. For example, Blake can have trouble in the post against you guys - whether it's Andrew Bogut blocking shots or Draymond Green stripping the ball. A consistent jumper from Blake can take those advantages away from the Dubs and open up the offense both for him and his teammates.