Golden State Warriors: Let the Battle Begin

The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers don’t like each other. It doesn’t take much to notice that, especially if you saw them play earlier in the season. Ever since Mark Jackson and Chris Paul arrived to their respective teams there’s been hostility between the two teams. This series is setting up to be the best series of the entire first round of the playoffs, so tune in.

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It’s safe to expect more shoving matches like this one when the Clippers and Warriors get together for their playoff series. Photo: Alex Gallardo, Associated Press

The Warriors and Clippers split their season series 2-2 with the home team winning each time. If that trend continues then the Clippers would win in seven games. There’s so many individual matchups to watch in this series. First the two best point guards in the NBA with Paul and Steph Curry are hooking up. Also the power forward matchup of David Lee vs Blake Griffin is another battle that should be very good. If Andrew Bogut was playing then that would add another element to the series as he’s been involved in a pushing match with pretty much every member of the Clippers.

For the Warriors, they are in a similar position as they were last season; being a sixth seed and dealing with a key injury to their front line. The Warriors were without Lee for a good portion of the playoffs last year and played well without him. However, missing Bogut will have a much bigger impact on the team as he’s their defensive anchor and enforcer. With Bogut in the game it’s difficult for teams to penetrate and get into the paint. Without him teams can penetrate more frequently and can finish a lot easier.

Another reason why losing Bogut is key, is that the Warriors backup center is 38 year old Jermaine O’Neal.  O’Neal now will have to turn back the clock and play his Indiana days at least on the defensive end. He will probably be asked to play at least 25 minutes most games and maybe more depending upon how bad the Warriors are getting killed on the glass and defending the basket. O’Neal is obviously capable on the defensive end as he’s shown this season, so it’ll be fun to see him play against Jordan and Griffin.

Bogut’s absence means that more players like Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes will have to step up and play big. Barnes did it last year in the playoffs, but he had a forgettable second NBA season. However, the Warriors are hoping that his career high night of 30 points against the Denver Nuggets will give him some much needed confidence. Green, on the other hand, is just a baller. He’s a tweener, but he plays elite defense, rebounds at an elite level for his size, has a high basketball IQ and certainly can and will get under the skin of Griffin when he’s assigned the task of guarding him.

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Jermaine O’ Neal will have to play in this series against Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan considering that starting center Andrew Bogut won’t play. Photo: Kevin Sullivan, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Being the sixth seed the Warriors are being overlooked again just like last year. The Clippers are a much better team than the Denver Nuggets: they have a better point guard, a better front line and obviously a better head coach, so the task will be more difficult. However, the Warriors are a confident team and are playing their best basketball of the season right now. In addition, the Warriors will be playing extra hard for their coach Mark Jackson as well. There’s been rumors swirling for a while that if the Warriors flame out in the playoffs than he might not return. However, he has his players support and they play hard for him regardless.

The x factors in this series will be free throw shooting, turnovers and the play of the bench. The Warriors weren’t a great free throw shooting team in the regular season, but they were better than the Clippers, 75 percent to 73 percent. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jackson employ the hack-a-Jordan strategy as he’s only shooting 43 percent on free throws this season. That will certainly force Coach Rivers’ hand as far as minutes go in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers have a superior bench to the Warriors with veteran players. Jamal Crawford will yet again be in the running for sixth man of the year. He averaged over 18 points per game on the season coming off the bench. That’s shows that he’s explosive and can win a game on his own if he’s rolling. To put Crawford’s numbers into perspective, he would’ve been the Warriors second leading scorer this year if he was on their team.

The Warriors bench on, the other hand, has improved throughout the year but it’s still a mixed bag. With either O’Neal, Green or Barnes moved into the starting lineup due to Bogut’s injury that limits the Warriors bench even more. The Warriors really don’t have the explosive big scoring bench that the Clippers have, but more guys that are just there to give a rest to key players, (i.e Steve Blake) coming in for Curry. However, the Warriors have a Crawford as well who could play a key role. Jordan Crawford is as lethal as anybody as a scorer if he’s rolling and he could play a role in this series, if the Warriors are struggling for offense.

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The Warriors will miss Andrew Bogut in this series. But, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be able to pull off the upset. Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Turnovers have been an issue for the Warriors all year long and they will certainly play a big role in this series as well. The Clippers and the Miami Heat are the two teams that you can’t turn the ball over against as they are two of the best at turning those into dunks. The Warriors need to cherish the ball and not give an explosive Clippers team extra possessions, especially if they want to win a game in LA , which they will have to do.

I’d be very surprised if this series goes less than six games. These teams are too evenly matched, even without Bogut playing. Curry and Paul are pretty even as point guards. Thompson iclosely matches Crawford in point production (18.4 to 18.6). The two matchups that could win the series for the Clippers will obviously be Griffin and Jordan versus Lee, Green and O’Neal. If the Warriors can hold their own down low than they will win the series on the back of Curry. Will they? Tune in Saturday 12:30 PM or 3:30 Eastern Time.