The Clippers take on the division rival Warriors in a challenging test at home against the best team in the NBA through the first quarter of the season. Continue reading for a full preview of the Clippers’ game against the Warriors.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 12:30 PM PT
How to Watch: Bally Sports SoCal
Warriors: Steph Curry – Jordan Poole – Andrew Wiggins – Draymond Green – Kevon Looney
Clippers: Reggie Jackson – Eric Bledsoe – Paul George – Marcus Morris – Ivica Zubac
Warriors: Klay Thompson Out (Achilles), James Wiseman Out (Knee), Andre Iguodala Questionable (Knee), Damion Lee Questionable (Personal)
Clippers: Kawhi Leonard Out (Knee), Nic Batum Out (COVID-19), Jason Preston Out (Foot), Keon Johnson Out (G-League), Brandon Boston Jr. Out (G-League)
The Big Picture
The Clippers are sitting at 11-8, essentially tied for 4th place in the Western Conference with the Dallas Mavericks. Considering the absence of Kawhi Leonard for the entirety of the season thus far, the lengthy injury situations of Marcus Morris and Serge Ibaka, and the COVID-19 illness of Nic Batum, the record is a massive success. The Clippers have won games primarily through their defense – they have the second ranked defense in the NBA, and it’s been at that level most of the season. Great defense is a path to earning many tough victories in the NBA, and if they keep playing defense at this level, they should be able to tread water until Kawhi Leonard returns. Conversely, their offense is 25th in the NBA, which is pretty hideous for such a quality squad. Unless the offense improves, the Clippers are unlikely to do much more than tread water.
The 17-2 Warriors are not just the best team in the NBA by record (just ahead of the scorching-hot Suns), they also have the best Net Rating in the NBA by a mile at 13.5. They have the best defense in the NBA and the second-best offense in the NBA, and while they’ve had a soft and home-heavy schedule to start, they look very legitimate. The Warriors are led on offense by Steph Curry, who leads the league in scoring and three-pointers made, and on defense by Draymond Green, who’s the clear frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. Add in the breakout play from Jordan Poole, the returns to form by Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter, and Nemanja Bjelica, and solid play from other veterans, and you have a deep, dangerous team that can beat you in a multitude of ways.
Pivoting From Youth Movements: Both the Warriors and Clippers have leaned into veterans this year, by and large eschewing the play of rookies and second-year players. For the Warriors, the 2nd pick of the 2020 Draft, James Wiseman, is still out with injury – but even if healthy it doesn’t feel like he’d play much. Similarly, their lottery rookies, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, have mostly on played in garbage time. The same holds true of the Clippers, who have a rookie (Jason Preston) out with injury, and two others who are spending most of their time in the G-League (Boston and Johnson). This is not unusual for contending teams, but it is interesting considering both the Warriors and Clippers pride themselves on player development and rely on third-year guys in Jordan Poole and Terance Mann respectively. The Clippers’ youngsters are out for this one, and the Warriors’ young guys probably won’t play unless the game becomes a blowout.
Stopping Steph: Poole and Andrew Wiggins are both close to 20 point per game scorers, but the key to beating the Warriors is keeping Steph Curry under control. This is easier said than done, as Curry is the best shooter and perhaps the best offensive player period in the history of the sport. One critical element is keeping track of him off-ball. Curry is unique in his devastating force as an off-ball weapon running off screens and drawing help that frees up the rest of his team – the Clippers will have to prevent him from getting open looks while also not allowing his teammates easy buckets. On-ball, the Clippers will probably try to trap him and get the ball out of his hands. Anything but a drop coverage that allows open threes, because Steph Curry threes are the most demoralizing bucket in the modern NBA.
Getting Paul George Going: By his lofty standards, Paul George has struggled on the offensive end over the past seven games. Most of those struggles can be related to outside shooting – he’s just 17/65 over that span, a 26% mark on very high volume. He’s far too good a three-point shooter to continue at that level, but the Clippers should try to get him some easy looks and get him going a bit. Something else he can do is try to get to the line consistently. Over that seven-game stretch, George has three games with double-digit free throw attempts, but two with just two, and two others with zero. PG notoriously gets a poor whistle for a player of his stature, yet still, he should try to press the issue a bit more by continuing to attack the paint and not settle for jumpers.
That about does it for this preview of the Clippers’ revenge game against the Warriors. Leave your comments below!