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Warriors vs. Clippers Game 5 Preview: Close it out and move on

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Draymond Green (hand) expected to play after MRI comes back clean.

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NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers

3-1 jokes aside, it’s time for the Golden State Warriors to finish off the Los Angeles Clippers and move on. We look ahead so the team doesn’t have to. With an extremely worthy Houston Rockets poised to advance, it behooves the defending champs to close their first round series out in a timely fashion.

It’s been a weird series. Other than the Clippers’ historic comeback Los Angeles has been thoroughly dominated. But that comeback, along with painful memories of unavoidable “Warriors blew a 3-1 lead” meme and a season that was a bit less than wall-to-wall dominance, have me nervous. Hopefully the Warriors treat this upcoming game with the respect it deserves, because I’m ready to move on.

GAME DETAILS

Who: Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Warriors lead series 3-1)

When: Wednesday April 24, 2019 at 7:30pm

Where: Oracle Arena — Oakland, California

TV: TNT

Line: Warriors -14, o/u 235

Injuries: Draymond Green (hand) is questionable, DeMarcus Cousins (quadricep) and Damian Jones (pectoral) are out for the Warriors.

A rejuvenated Warriors defense and Andrew Bogut

“They kill you with their defense, and then they show you their offense.” That was Clippers coach Doc Rivers after our last game, trying to figure out which end of the court was his biggest problem. While the Warriors (rightly) get most of the media attention because of their tremendous offense, their defense is no slouch. As we saw last season, the Warriors have flipped the switch.

A big part of this resurrection has been the driven by the return of our old grumpy Australian pal, Andrew Bogut. He’s averaging more points, rebounds and assists per game than his previous two playoff runs with the Warriors, as per Grant Liffman. Which is just as surprising as it is fitting. Like Rodimus Prime opening the matrix of leadership, Bogut has arrived to light our darkest defensive hour.

After falling out from the Warriors at first, and then the rest of the league because of injuries, many Warriors fans are finding his return especially meaningful — and especially poignant since he’s filling in after our two starting Centers succumbed to injuries, mirroring his final games here in his previous tenure. It’s not just his on court impact. Bogut pulls the sort of respect that is only granted to those who deserve it because of their skill and insight, not just the amount of time they spent in the league.

A recent article from The Athletic highlights this stuff, as Kevon Looney put it:

He’s just such a smart player and everybody respects his opinion. I don’t think a lot of players can just come in and make up their own play, but Bogues has seniority and everybody respects his IQ level. Only Bogues can do that.

The “make his own play” quote up there is in regards to a specific adjustment that Bogut brought in from something they run on his Australian team. The fact that he’s not laughed out of the locker room for bringing in an outside idea isn’t all that ludicrous — after all, coach Steve Kerr famously substituted Bogut out in the playoffs in the Finals to start Andre Iguodala at the behest of video coordinate Nick U’Ren back in 2015. But the story is still cool enough (again, from The Athletic):

“He diagrammed this one play for us and we tried it,” Kerr said. “The play makes perfect sense, given the defense we’re facing.”

Bogut’s addition is an old “blast play,” one that has guards crisscrossing into the setting of pindown screens. It’s meant to crack the Clippers’ “top locking” approach.

“It hasn’t worked yet, unfortunately,” Bogut said, a bit sheepishly.

...

“We’re trying to get on our guys to run it properly,” Bogut said. “We ran it in Sydney a little bit and with the way the Clippers are playing us, it should free up that top lock, but the Clippers are doing some absolutely wild stuff out there so it hasn’t worked as well as I’d like.”

Draymond Green’s hand

It’s flying a little bit below the radar, seeing as how the Warriors are playing a team that they’ve beaten by an average of 12 points — in spite of losing one of the four games so far — but let’s talk about this.

This is something that escaped my notice, but here’s the entirety of what I could find, even after retrospective searching:

Green has been phenomenal. He’s averaging 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1 steal and 1.8 blocks per game in just about 35 minutes per game (stats as always from basketball reference).

Anyways, the hand/wrist(?) is bad enough to warrant an MRI. Now, I’m no medical doctor, but I don’t mind pretending like I am one on the internet. MRIs are expensive endeavors that suck up the time of a potentially lifesaving doctor and equipment hours — so NBA teams don’t generally throw them at a player unless something is concerning.

Logan Murdock reports that Steve Kerr said “He’s fine,’’after Tuesday’s practice. “He had an MRI and was cleared and practiced fully today.” Green also gave a tight lipped affirmative

“I’m good,” Green told NBC Sports Bay Area when asked about the splint. “I’m solid.”

This isn’t quite as severe as LeBron James implausibly saying that his wrist was “pretty much broken” but given Green’s importance to the Warriors, this is an issue that bears watching.

What are the Clipper going to do?

So far, the Clippers have been on their heels for almost all of the series. It hasn’t been particularly close for most of the time, but Los Angeles has still managed to look threatening enough. That historic 31 point comeback is going to serve as either a lodestone turning point, or an ominous symbol of what is to come. But one way or another it’ll be a defining feature of how this series is remembered.

Our old pal Robert Flom is back again over at Clips Nation with a good look at what some of the options could be. Rest assured though, Doc is going to try something to jiggle the handle on this series. In general, the options are what we already knew they were, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrel and especially Danillo Gallinari have to simply play better. Gallinari, who’s scoring below his season average seems to be the main missing contributor. The time he looked best? During the huge game two comeback:

...he’s never looked comfortable at all in this series, with the lone exception being the 2nd half of Game 2, where he finally got in rhythm down the stretch. In that period, Lou and Trez were drawing all the attention from the Warriors on defense, allowing Gallo to shake free.

Gallinari’s scoring is only slightly below his season average rate, but it’s his scoring efficiency that’s been his real shortfall. In the series, he’s averaging 16 points per game (down from 19.8 in the regular season) but his True Shooting percentage is way down at .437. That’s bad. On the season, he averaged a TS% of .633, which compares favorably to Klay Thompson’s career mark of .575, for reference.

Prediction

We’re done here, right? NBA needs a mercy rule.