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The Gold-blooded series preview: Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Clippers

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The first round presents the Warriors with a familiar foe, but one who looks a whole lot different than they have in the past.

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The David Lee gif where he tells Blake Griffin to stop flopping, the famous Stephen Curry “We will figure this out, Dub Nation” tweet after a playoff loss in 7 games - the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers have a storied history. And although the teams both have changed drastically since those early battles, there’s still something there - an innate, seething desire to beat the pants off of the Clippers.

You can thank the Clippers for stoking the flames of Golden State that now consume the entire NBA.

  • That Game 7 defeat got Steph Curry mentor and Warriors head coach Pastor Mark Jackson fired for poor offensive strategy. That opened the door for Steve Kerr to take over and create the greatest offense in NBA history.
  • That Clippers series exposed Dubs’ power forward David Lee’s limitations in both defense and outside shooting. The Dubs replaced him with a young Draymond Green, destroyer of Blake Griffin, and a model prototype for modern small-ball bigs.
  • The Warriors 2015 title was besmirched by Clippers coach Doc Rivers claiming the Warriors were “lucky” not to face L.A. during the playoffs. Odd, seeing as though the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Rockets that year with an opportunity to face the Dubs in the WCF on the line. Anyways, that remark sent Curry into “Unanimous MVP” mode, as he guided the Warriors to 73 wins and multiple crushings of L.A. that season.
  • Since the Clippers eliminated Curry from the playoffs, he has a record of 17-1 against them as a starter, including 16 straight wins. He’s averaging 30.6 PPG/5.3 REB/5.6 AST on 52% shooting from the field, 46% from beyond the arc during that span.

Here’s a carefully crafted video representation of how the Warriors have flipped the script on the once mighty Doc Rivers-era Clippers.

Key matchups

Like Blake Griffin flopping into an early playoff exit, Rivers’ attempts to steer the franchise have inevitably failed. Lob City died - not a gruesome Warriors death, but like an old man wistfully wishing he could have done more with his life. However, it’s all sort of worked out. This current iteration of the Clippers team is actually pretty good.

On the Warriors side, Kevin Durant will be our most important player. Though Curry will mostly drive the offense, the Clippers are one of the many teams that emphasize over-covering Curry. Durant has been playing extremely well, distributing the ball and shooting as efficiently as he ever has, and the Clippers don’t really have a single person capable of reliably slowing him down.

Because of the late-season moves made, we haven’t really got to face the current Clippers roster. The Clippers have two center options: Ivaca Zubac, a lumbering 7-footer who prefers to stay close to the basket and Montrezl Harrell, a 6’8” small ball center with an inexplicably silent “L” in his first name. Neither should present much of a challenge for the Warriors offensively. On the other end of the court, things should also be breaking in the Warriors direction; here’s Anthony Slater of the Athletic, pointing out how shockingly helpful Cousins has been on the defensive end lately:

Cousins’ defensive rating the last 15 games is an extremely impressive 100.2. The Warriors have actually been stopping teams better with him on the court than off it (105.2 rating) over this period.

As Brady Klopfer pointed out to me, the Warriors have mostly won against the Clippers because we overpower them offensively. So you have to assume that an emergent defensive presence would be yet another factor indicating that this could be over quickly:

...the Warriors defense wasn’t great against LAC, their offense was just good. Clippers had a 57.5% true-shooting percentage in the four games, but the Warriors were at 58.9%.

Also, watch for the matchup at shooting guard (or whatever we call Lou Williams vs. Klay Thompson). Again, thanks to Brady for feeding me these numbers in our Slack chat recently. It’s worthwhile noting that neither team’s big shooter have been especially effective in our regular season matches. Klay Thompson has performed well below his averages, just 16.8 ppg on just 47.3% true shooting (rather than his 21.5 points on 57.1% true shooting) as has Lou Williams - who’s averaged an extra turnover per game while shooting 12.1 percent below his season average TS%.

Gold blooded series prediction

Duby Dub Dubs: Despite the cautionary wisdom of Sleepy Freud, I’m looking for a sweep in this series. It’s not that the Clippers aren’t good enough - it’s just that the Warriors are an all-time great team at the peak of their powers. We saw them flip the proverbial switch last year, and I’m leaning on that history again in my prediction here. Warriors will turn on their defense, and the Clippers won’t be able to keep up with the high-powered Warriors machine. Dubs in four.

Daniel Hardee: Since the turn of the century, three teams have eliminated the Warriors from the Western Conference playoffs. The 2007 Jazz, the 2013 Spurs, and the 2014 Clippers. The Dubs poured out vengeful sweeps on both the Jazz and Spurs in 2017. Now, the champions can avenge their last blemish on their Western postseason resume against the Clips.

I, much like Duby, expect the brooms to come out. DUBS IN FO’