As injury news poured in from around the NBA on Friday, I find myself especially thankful that the Golden State Warriors enter the 2019 Playoffs as not just the presumptive favorite to win it all, but as a team that is pretty darn close to fully healthy.
Paul George’s lingering shoulder issue has him day-to-day, Joel Embiid’s team is “optimistic” that he’ll play the opening game and Marcus Smart out for at least two rounds. These are the sorts of issues that derail a team’s chances, not some dust ups between star players in November.
Now that the games start to matter in earnest, the Warriors will be taking everything day-to-day, but hopefully only as an exercise in mindfulness.
Anyways, put that all on the back burner and strap in for what should be a fun first round in the Western Conference playoffs. Be sure to check out the odds and our series predictions for more details on the broader matchup. Now let’s dig into the first game of the Warriors’ 2019 Playoffs!
Who: Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Clippers (series tied 0-0)
When: Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Where: Oracle Arena — Oakland, California
Blog Buddy: Clips Nation
Warriors heavily favored as they roll into the first round
I’m old enough to remember when the Warriors were the underdogs. Back in the 2013-14 NBA season, the Warriors and Clippers met for a contest of wills that went to seven games. The Warriors finally bowed out, but it was seen as a moral victory. Both Warriors’ centers out due to injuries, there was no shame in losing to a team so heralded that they had their own nickname. But Lob City is gone now, and the roles of David and Goliath are swapped for the playoff rematch that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin could never make happen.
According to ESPN, the L.A. #Clippers enter their first round series against the Golden State #Warriors as the biggest underdogs in an NBA playoff series in the past 30 years. Guess there’s no time like the present to attempt the impossible.— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 12, 2019
The Clippers have fully transformed this season. Rich from assets acquired in various trades and some nice internal development, the Clippers are a fun, fast-paced squad. Running the 7th fastest offense, while still delivering a top ten offensive rating, this Los Angeles team is nothing to scoff at. Which actually says a lot more about how tremendously potent this Golden State Warriors team is and bodes well for an eventual third straight championship.
According to super-prediction website 538.com, the Warriors are objectively poised for this — don’t just take my word for it:
...the Golden State Warriors are the No. 1 seed, for the fourth time in five years. Our model currently gives the Warriors a commanding 78 percent chance of winning the conference (and a 60 percent chance of winning the NBA title).
It’s science. Dubs in four.
So, what are we worried about?
The Warriors entire concept is built around the foundation of getting reliably good shots. The team’s effective field goal percentage was an impressive 56.5%, the second best ever registered in the history of the NBA — second only to themselves, last season.
So as long as the Warriors run their efficient offense, they can basically outgun any other team. However, the Clippers do a couple of things really well that could complicate matters if the whistles and balls bounce a certain way.
The most notable event in an otherwise meaningless close to the regular season occured when Steph Curry rolled his ankle in the first quarter, a non-contact injury that gave many Warriors fans immediate PTSD. Reportedly, he’s close to 100% and will be available in game one. But with physical defender Patrick Beverley likely drawing the defensive assignment, the issue may be far from resolved. Another tweak or two and we could quickly be redefining the calculus of fan concern.
The Montrezl Harrell pick and rolll
What? No, “rolll” isn’t mis-spelled, the last one is just silent, like the one in Montrezl. I don’t know why, but I can’t stop thinking about it... why put a silent letter at the end of your kid’s name? And why an “L”? Why not something cooler, like another “z” or even an “x”, the “x” would be a power move for sure.
Anyways, back to the pick and rolll. Did you know the Warriors were the third worst at covering the pick and roll this season? As per Positive Residual, the Clippers “scored 1.21 points per possession on P&R Roll Man plays (2nd highest in the NBA).” Taken together, you can see how this could be a problem.
The Clippers shot nearly 39% from three, but they don’t shoot many of them (28th ranked in the league) so these pick and roll interactions are going to be hugely important. The rest of their graphic is neat, so I’m putting it here for your perusal.
I’m actually not that worried
I already went on record predicting a sweep, and you don’t become the biggest underdog in thirty years without cause. Still, these games matter enough that I can never quite relax.
Warriors 117 - Clipper 108