When: 7:30pm PST - Thursday, February 22
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
How to watch: NBCSBA, TNT
How to listen: 95.7 The Game
Enemy blog: Clips Nation
Warriors: Jordan Bell (out, left ankle inflammation), Patrick McCaw (questionable, wrist)
Clippers: Jawun Evans (questionable, abdominal strain), Patrick Beverley (out for season, knee)
Start of something good
We knew the Warriors needed a break. In the month leading up to the All-Star break, they just didn’t look like themselves. The offense lacked crispness, the defense needed focus, and Coach Steve Kerr was searching for ways to keep the team interested. The Warriors are coming up on their fourth consecutive extended playoff run. The flights, the back-to-backs, the nightlife...it’s all grueling. If the season ended today, Houston would have the number one seed in the Western Conference. Safe to say, the Dubs want the number one seed.
Entering the final 24 games of the season, the Warriors have two goals: win and find the playoff shape they’ve been lacking. Tonight, they match up against the once-hated Los Angeles Clippers.
Are the Clippers still a big deal?
Yeah, I went there. Blake Griffin was shipped to Detroit. Chris Paul was traded to Houston last summer. Are we really going to spend time hating on Austin and Doc Rivers? Point guard Milos Teodosic is a lovable dude who looks like he sprang from an indie film and just finished a cigarette and coffee before stepping on the court. Lou Williams is having one of the best heat-check years of all time. And sure, DeAndre Jordan is annoying but are we going to waste our energy on him? Without Griffin and Paul, this team is just another squad in the Western Conference fighting for the eight seed — a team the Warriors must destroy should they face them in the first round of the playoffs. Now is a good time to practice.
Watch the first quarter
Lou Williams is one of the hottest scorers in basketball right now and put up 50 points last time he faced the Warriors. After being snubbed from the All-Star team, with tonight’s game on national television, he’ll try his darndest to put up 50 again.
Opponents are shooting 49% against the Warriors in the first quarter (54% in the past month) and lately the Warriors have been playing catch up after the first. Stopping Lou Williams in the first quarter is actually a big deal. Lock down, focus and build back the early-game defensive confidence the team’s been lacking.
In the Griffin trade, part of the Clippers’ haul included Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. Of the duo, Bradley is the guy to watch because he is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league.
We like to say, “As Stephen Curry goes, so do the Warriors.” If the Warriors can pull together a solid defensive first quarter and if Curry can hit some early shots, then the Warriors will be off to a solid post-All-Star break start.
I could go on about how Draymond Green’s motor hasn’t been the same this year; or how the bench wasn’t great over the past month; or how Steph Curry needs to play better in the first quarter. None of those things really matter. This is the best team in the NBA. They know it, other teams know it.
Kerr put a premium on the All-Star break. Two weeks before the break he talked about how the Warriors needed a break. By doing so, he put pressure/emoji eyes on the team to blast out of the break with intensity and focus. The 2017-2018 team that we all remember starts tonight.